Large federal grant will repair north apron at airport

Large federal grant will repair north apron at airport


By:  Rudy Diaz

In more good news for the airport, a large federal grant will improve safety during fire operations.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $950,000 discretionary grant to reconstruct the north apron at the Grant County Regional Airport in John Day.

“The apron reconstruction project is greatly needed to increase safety for our airport users, and this federal government grant funding with additional funding from the Oregon Department of Aviation, and the Grant County government will provide a safe area for at least the next twenty years,” Grant County Regional Airport Manager Haley Walker said in a press release. “As a result, the Grant County Regional Airport can safely serve our local customers and attract new business while meeting and exceeding expectations.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden said the large discretionary grant was great news.

“Improving the airport’s infrastructure will help provide economic opportunity by improving the flow of goods to the region while also aiding federal and state agencies with wildfire suppression efforts,” he said.

Oregon’s Democratic senators also lauded the appropriation.

“Regional airports play a critical role in connecting our communities with economic opportunities and critical resources,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Walker discussed with the Grant County Court on Sept. 25 the north apron project and several proposals available to address the current pavement issue.

“When I started over three years ago, this was the one project from the users of the airport, in particular the hangar users, that I needed to make sure was improved for safety reasons,” Walker said regarding the north apron project.

The pavement is unraveling at the north apron, which is causing rock pebbles to be blown toward hangers when single engine airtankers go to refill on retardant during fire operations.

“Those SEAT planes come in right in front of my hangar and turn and throw their nasty rocks,” said Eva Harris, a hangar owner at the airport. “They go right under and through my hangar. ... Sometimes there’s an inch or two of gravel stacked up in front of (the hangar doors).”

While the grant will go toward reconstructing the apron that is for public use, the Federal Aviation Administration deemed around 800 square yards just past the driveway of the hangars as private use.

The airport budget will provide $10,273 for the required match for the $950,000 grant. The county also agreed to provide $40,000 from the general contingency fund to pay for the reconstruction of the private property that does not qualify for the grant.

The north apron project will begin during the construction season of 2020 and is expected to take no more than 30 days depending on the weather, Walker said.

The north apron is one of two big projects ongoing at the airport, which also received a separate federal grant of $6.25 million to decouple the two runways from DOT with no match money needed. This grant will be awarded in April 2020.