Evansville fix may divert federal funds
By BRADEN LAMMERS Braden.Lammers@newsandtribune.com
SELLERSBURG — Clark County will have to come up with additional funding to complete its runway expansion project due to a change in federal funding levels.
The change was discussed at the Clark County Board of Aviation Commissioners meeting Wednesday that the county’s match for the runway expansion project at Clark Regional Airport has jumped from 3.75 percent to 7.5 percent.
An increase in the local match required was a result of the reauthorization of a $63.6 billion funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration last week. The legislation funds the FAA through 2015, but cut the federal contribution to projects from 95 percent down to 90 percent.
As a result, the local match increased from 3.75 percent to 7.5 percent and the Indiana Department of Transportation’s contribution jumped from 1.25 percent to 2.5 percent.
The FAA has already given the airport an $11 million grant to lengthen the runway to a total of 7,000 feet.
The change effectively increases the county’s total cost, but the members of the air board said they still feel like the return on their investment is extremely beneficial to the county.
“You’re getting $4 million from the FAA and it’s going to cost you $200,000 … where else can you get [that],” asked board member Alan Conner, referring to the first phase of the project.
Board President Ron Barnes agreed and added the figures do not include the added benefit the economic drivers will be able to produce as a result of the airport’s expansion.
The first effects will be felt on the 2012 portion of the project, the relocation of Bean Road.
Mike Harris, engineer with Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz, Inc., said the relocation of the road is expected to be awarded March 9. The road, which sits at the end of the runway, must be relocated to allow for the runway’s eventual extension.
According to the Capital Improvement Plan, the cost of the first portion of the project that includes the road relocation along with additional pieces of work is $3.99 million. The local match totals $299,519.
However, the expectation is that only a portion of the funds to complete that portion of the project will be received.
Harris said he anticipates about $1.5 million grants, which will go to pay for the road relocation work.
“The idea is that we bid the whole thing, we’re going to build this center section … that gives us time to get the grant for the rest of the project, hopefully,” he said.
The center section Harris referred to is to construct only a portion of the road and based on the $1.5 million in grant funding the county’s match would total $112,500.
A lower amount of funding designated, and a higher county match, are not the only hurdles the air board will have to clear.
Airport Manager Melodee McNames said two properties must still be acquired in order to begin the relocation project. She added the grant funding has already been received to pay for the properties, but an appraised value of the land has yet to be determined.
Another airport project, in Evansville, may also impact Clark Regional Airport’s expansion plans.
According to a report in the Evansville Courier Press, the Evansville Regional Airport was set to receive grant funding last year to begin work to relocate the airport’s runway in order to bring it into compliance with FAA safety regulations. The project is set to begin this year and will receive a $18 million in FAA grant to pay for the runway fix.
Because there is a limited amount of funds, money may be diverted away from other projects in the state including Clark Regional Airport to pay for Evanville’s runway.
“They were taking money away from people last year too, to send money over to Evansville,” McNames said, referring to the FAA.
She said the expectation is it will happen again this year, but she is not sure how much funding will be diverted.
But a delay in the project may again provide a benefit to the air board.
“It’s probably a blessing that we’re delayed a little bit, if we’re at 7.5 percent, so we have a chance to get there,” Barnes said.
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