by Marissa Lorenz
Grand County Airports have been awarded unexpected funds under the The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. With a current waiver to normally-expected matching funds and an additional grant for operational expenses, the County will reduce expected airport expenses by about $225,000 and see an additional $60,000 revenue.
The County had budgeted for and planned to begin two airport improvement projects for 2020, a runway repave and lighting project at Kremmling’s McElroy Airport and a design phase for a partial taxiway and hangar planning project at Emily Warner Field in Granby. They had applied for funding under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) standard granting process, which normally sees approved projects funded by the FAA for 90 percent of costs, with the State paying 5 percent and the local government entity being responsible for the final 5 percent.
This year is “unique,” however, according to Josh Schroeder, Grand County Airport Supervisor. He explains that, under the CARES Act, the FAA was granted $10 billion to distribute to airports for various purposes, one being to eliminate the local 5 percent match for this granting cycle. “It’s really unprecedented. But the aim is to allow counties and municipalities, especially rural ones like ours, to be able to retain funding so that they can continue to operate to the best of their ability, keeping jobs going and businesses open.”
The Kremmling project is a $4.6 million undertaking to repave the entire runway and install a
new indicator lighting system. The County would normally have been responsible for about $230,000 towards those costs. This first design phase for improvements to the Granby airport was estimated at $254,000, with the County budgeting about $10,000 towards that amount. It will see survey and engineering work on the northwest side of the airport this year, in order to prepare for a partial taxiway and groundwork for future hangar expansion. With the federal government paying the local match for these projects at 100 percent, the County will only have to pay for additional PAPIs, or Precision Approach Path Indicators, at Emily Warner Field.
At the recommendation of Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer, the Board of County Commissioners recently awarded the paving bid for McElroy Airport to United Companies. All design consulting for County airports is done by Armstrong Engineering of Grand Junction, says Schroeder, yet no work will begin on either project until monies are actually received by the County.
Schroeder also reports that an additional $60,000 was awarded to the County for airport operational expenses. “This helps us to offset our costs to pay staffing and maintenance costs for the foreseeable future during the pandemic.”
The grants are good news for Grand County, which is anticipating a $5.7 million negative impact to their 2020 budget, due to reduced revenues and increased expenditures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.