The Payson Town Council last week awarded a $288,000 contract to build runway blast pads and put up better signs at the airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration will pay 95 percent of the cost and the Arizona Department of Transportation will pay another 2.5 percent — leaving Payson on the hook for about $3,000.
The safety improvements will require the airport to shorten the runway by 4,500 feet for about three weeks and close down entirely for two days.
AJP Electric submitted the low bid at $288,394 — about 12 percent below estimates.
By contrast, North County construction submitted a bid of about $370,000.
The town’s consulting engineer had guessed the bid would come in at about $328,000.
Payson had hoped to get the FAA grant for the project last year, but the federal agency ran out of money before it could fund all the qualified projects.
However, the FAA recently notified the town it had more money to spend, so Payson sought bids for the project.
The latest improvements come as the independent Payson Regional Airport Authority is weighing whether to ask the town to step back in and take over management of the airport.
Payson turned over the day-to-day operations of the airport to a group operated by local pilots to cut costs and respond to complaints of neglect and conflict by airport users.
The airport board came up with a $10 million master plan to double the number of takeoffs and landings the airport can handle, which now total about 40,000 annually. The plan also calls for an expansion in the number of hangars, a new restaurant, a terminal and other facilities.
The airport authority’s ambiguous relationship with the FAA played a role in that request, since the FAA still considers Payson responsible for the airport. Therefore, the town remains legally responsible for all the FAA grants, which would fund many of the proposed improvements in the master plan.
The blast pads and signage included in the latest $288,000 grant should provide more places for planes to park off the runway and improve the safety and efficiency of the movement of planes after they land and as they taxi for takeoff.