Plans For Airport Upgrades Approved

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Plans to improve Payson's airport are winging their way to the Federal Aviation Administration and Arizona Department of Transportation.

After an extended discussion, the airport capital improvement program was approved by the town council Thursday, Dec. 12.

The program includes four construction projects, one environmental planning document, and a loan for aircraft storage hangars. All of these are proposed for Fiscal Year 2003-2004.

The construction projects are to realign Airport Road; build t-hangar taxi lanes and infrastructure; install an approach indicator system for Runway 6; and build runway exit taxiways.

The environmental planning document is for the proposed runway safety area, a runway extension and relocated taxiway.

The aircraft storage hangars will be 10 nested t-hangars and three box hangars.

The combined projects are expected to have a total price of $2.1 million, with the town providing $525,721 of that.

The ACIP proposes projects through FY 2007-2008. The most expensive of these are planned for FY 2004-2005 and include a run-up pad; ramp expansion and taxiway connector; construction of a relocated helipad; land acquisition; and airport master plan update. It is anticipated these projects will cost $1.2 million, with the local share at $54,535.

Discussing the plan, which had been arrived at following three public meetings, Councilor Robert Henley and Mayor Ken Murphy wanted to follow the suggestions of a number of pilots using the airport: remove the environmental plan, but improve the runway safety area.

"It is my view we need to address safety and economic development issues related to the airport," Henley said.

Marty Rosness, an engineer specializing in FAA matters, told the council, "The FAA said the extension area was a way to address the safety issue. The FAA strongly suggested you get started with the environmental assessment."

"We have put $4 million plus into the airport since 1980 and another $4 million is being requested over the next five years. Couldn't noncompliance (with FAA requests) impact our grant success?" Councilor Judy Buettner asked.

Rosness said noncompliance could have an impact.

"There is no guarantee of federal funds in the next fiscal year," he said.

Henley tried to have the improvement plan modified with the elimination of the environmental study and the airport safety issues addressed.

Henley and Murphy voted for the measure, but the remainder of the council rejected it.

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