By Diana Bowley of the Bangor Daily News: DEXTER, Maine — Town officials learned this week that the planned $3.3 million runway reconstruction scheduled for 2010 at Dexter Regional Airport has been delayed three years because of less funding at the federal level.
Town Manager Judy Doore said Tuesday that she and other town officials were "mortified" to learn the project was going to be delayed, especially since it has been in the planning stage for so long. Plans for the airport improvement project were begun in 2002 when the airport master plan was updated, she said.
"We need to keep this crucial project high on the list for the FAA and the state," Doore said in a prepared statement. "The airport is vital to the area’s economic revitalization, and the agencies recognize that. The funding delay is understandable given the state of the economy, but we remain optimistic that this badly needed project will continue to move forward."
As a concession through negotiations last week, the Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Transportation agreed to help the town in 2009 fund preliminary design and environmental permitting, and other work including the removal of obstructions, the installation of a small security fence, and runway safety area improvements, according to Doore.
In the past, towns and DOT have each contributed 2.5 percent of the airport project costs as a match for federal funds, but in 2009, that local and state percentage will increase to 5 percent. Town officials had hoped to get the project done before the new percentages kicked in, Roger Nelson, airport manager said Tuesday.
Nelson said the town was assured by the FAA that, should a project on the priority list for funding be dropped, Dexter’s project would advance.
There are several safety issues with Dexter’s airport, including a problem with the line of sight which allegedly contributed to a crash several years ago when a pilot overshot the runway. In addition, the safety areas around the runways and lighting are issues that need to be addressed, according to the airport master plan update, which was approved in February by the airport committee and the Town Council.
The airport master plan, likened to a road map for the airport, provides an in-depth analysis of the airport and projections for its use. It also addresses the airport’s operation, environmental issues, future activity levels, airport uses and requirements, future development options and improvements.
Nelson, who has served 16 years as manager of the unattended airport, said it was constructed in 1941 as an auxiliary airport to the former Dow Field in Bangor. It has seen much growth over the years. He said the number of base airplanes at the airport has doubled within the past five years. To date, there are about 13 hangars constructed on the property with two more planned this summer. The land for the hangars is leased to pilots who construct the hangars and also pay property taxes on the buildings.
Corporate officials on their way to and from local industries in the area and seasonal residents frequent the airport, according to Nelson. In addition, the Dexter Aero Club, an active flying club, has two aircraft stationed at the airport. The pilots, who first organized about 30 years ago, share the experience of flying at a more affordable cost by pooling their resources.
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