The Payson Town Council last week unanimously approved an application for $10,000 in federal funds to install safety improvements at the Payson Regional Airport.
The town would use the money from the Federal Aviation Administration to buy about half an acre of land it would use to install runway blast pads at each end of one of the runways and to install airfield guidance signs and markings.
A private, nonprofit group comprised mostly of volunteers, manages the airport, which is still technically owned by the Town of Payson.
Payson used to operate the airport directly, but opted to turn it over to a group of airport users, saving about $100,000 annually.
The relationship between the groups has gone through various phases, with dissension on the airport board and frequent misunderstandings between the town and the board — all made more urgent by the role of the FAA.
That federal agency funds most airport improvements, but has made it clear that it holds the town legally responsible for following through on those grants — even though the airport board drew up the master plan for future improvements.
The $10,000 grant for the minor safety improvements approved by the town council last week is just a small part of a major overhaul, which will ultimately nearly double the airport’s capacity.
Moreover, the master plan calls for an overhaul of the small airport restaurant, more hangars, wider taxiways and runway shoulders, and millions of dollars in additional improvements.
A slowdown in the cycle of federal grant giving has hindered the movement toward the master plan.
So did a conflict on the airport board that resulted in the resignations a few months ago of several longtime board members in a complicated dispute that started with disagreements on the board about long-term hangar leases and other issues.
The controversy has settled down again in recent months, prompting the town and the board to again take baby steps toward the ultimate, federal makeover of the small air strip.
The airport hosts mostly small, private planes and features a small housing development that allows plane owners to land on the runway and essentially taxi into their own airplane garages.