Grant To Fund Design Of Taxiway, Helipad, More Parking

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The Payson Town Council will decide Monday whether to accept a $30,000 Federal Aviation Administration grant to bring the Payson Municipal Airport into federal safety compliance.

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The Payson Town Council will hold a special meeting at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 28, in the council chambers to decide whether or not to accept a $30,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Ted Anderson, airport manager, said the proposed project will expand and improve the eastern-most Echo Apron, adding two helipads, airplane parking and a second taxiway.

"The existing helipad location is not in compliance with the current (FAA) design," he said. "It was built too close to the runway."

To meet federal standards, the existing helipad must be moved out of the airport's "object-free area" -- a 250-foot clearance on either side of the runway's center line.

According to National Transportation Safety Board aviation records, the current configuration of the Echo Apron has not caused any of the 10 accidents and five fatalities recorded at the Payson Municipal Airport since 2001.

Pilot error, equipment malfunction and poor flying conditions contributed to these incidences.

Anderson confirmed the NTSB's findings.

Ian Gregor, FAA regional public information officer, couldn't verify other incidences -- his agency doesn't keep statistics on airports that operate without a tower, such as Payson.

But, facilities not in compliance with FAA standards, do constitute a liability, Anderson said.

Maintaining compliance, Anderson said, is difficult, especially for small airports.

The Payson Municipal Airport, first used by the Forest Service in the 1970s, has evolved through the years to service the area's growing general aviation community. As a result, airport administration, the town and the Arizona Department of Transportation are required to stay abreast of the FAA's ever-changing regulations.

And grants take years to secure. The town council authorized the submission of the Echo grant back in 2003.

The expansion of the existing facilities will improve accessibility for larger aircraft and helicopters, according to a proposal submitted to the town council on June 22.

The town council must accept and sign the grant paperwork by Aug. 31 to receive the money.

Within the month, the design phase could be completed, followed by another round of grant writing. Because of the FAA budget cycle, Anderson said the town will begin the contribution-seeking process during the 2009 fiscal year to finish the Echo Apron expansion, at an estimated cost of $300,000.

ADOT and the Town of Payson will contribute a combined $7,250 for the entire project.

The Payson Town Council will hold a special meeting at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 28, in the council chambers, 303 N. Beeline Hwy., to make this decision.

-- To reach Felicia Megdal call 474-5251 ext. 116 or e-mail

fmegdal@payson.com.

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