The Payson Town Council last week approved a series of contracts to make improvements in the operations of the Payson Airport, the first major investments since the town regained control of the airport from a group of airport users.
The Federal Aviation Administration will pay the bulk of the cost of the improvements, with Payson paying about 10 percent of the total.
The first contract covers a $200,000 plan to create safety areas on the north side of Runway 6/24 for airplanes that drift off to the side of the runway on takeoffs or landings that overshoot the runway.
In that case, the state and federal governments would pay about $180,000 of the total cost and Payson contributing $20,000. The contract includes about $26,000 for design work, with construction and grading expected to start in the spring.
The council also approved a contract to install a $232,000 automated weather system at the Payson Airport, with the town on the hook for less than 5 percent of the cost. Payson’s share of the cost comes to about $10,300.
The array of sensors will automatically broadcast to incoming pilots and air controllers in distant locations things like wind speed, temperature, snow, rain, humidity and other factors likely to affect pilots trying to land.
Finally, the council approved a $53,000 contract with Armstrong Consultants, part of a larger, $220,000 project. That project will correct safety problems with the runway on the north side of runway 6/24. That includes bringing the grading and lighting off the edge of the runway up to federal standards.
Bringing the federal grants in for a landing represents one of the benefits of having shifted control of the airport back to the Town of Payson from a non-profit group formed by airport users. The airport users group managed the airport for several years, but the arrangement involved some awkward juggling of federal grants and requirements. The FAA provided most of the money for past and future airport improvements, but always contracted with the town rather than the airport users group.
Returning the airport to the town’s control made it easier to comply with federal oversight requirements on those grants. Moreover, the town wants to push through a major upgrade of the airport to accommodate a projected doubling of landings there in coming years.
The ambitious master plan calls for about $9 million in airport improvements, mostly using federal grants. The town wants to build a terminal, a new restaurant, expanded helicopter landing areas and additional hangars.
The airport interjects about $20 million in both direct and indirect spending annually into the local economy, both through its operations and as a result of the money pilots spend during stopovers. Most express packages and other urgent supplies go through the airport.