County airports to benefit from FAA grant funding

7 years ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Northern Maine Regional Airport at Presque Isle will receive $550,543 to fund the recent purchase of new snow removal equipment thanks to a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“The old snow blower was 12 years old,” said Scott Wardwell, the airport director. “This is fabulous news for us because obviously a new piece of equipment is more dependable and also certainly has a lot less maintenance cost.”

The airport purchased a new Oshkosh H-Series 5000 snow blower.

“It’s actually the largest snow blower that Oshkosh makes,” Wardwell said. “Our maintenance costs were getting quite out of control and with these FAA grants the local share is only 2.5 percent.”

He said the airport already purchased the equipment and will be reimbursed by the FAA.

Ninety five percent of the funding comes from the FAA and, 2.5 percent comes from the Maine Department of Transportation. The remaining 2.5 percent will be funded locally, according to Wardwell.

“The local share actually comes from passenger facility charges that the people here pay,” said Wardwell. “If you fly through Presque Isle, that charge is there, but if you never use the airport you never contribute to that.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who chairs the senate’s transportation, housing and urban development appropriations subcommittee, and fellow Sen. Angus King recently announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a total of $3,317,011 in funding to 10 airports in Maine.

“Airports that serve rural regions are important to Maine’s transportation system.  In addition to connecting communities to the rest of the world, these airports support local economies by creating jobs and attracting business investments,” Collins said in a press release.

Along with Presque Isle’s airport, the Northern Aroostook Regional Airport in Frenchville will receive $174,581 to fund rehabilitation of the apron, runway, and taxiway pavement and to update the existing airport master plan study to show current and future needs of the airport.

“By investing in Maine’s airports, particularly in more rural areas of the state, we are not only investing in our communities, but the small businesses and Maine people who call them home as well,” King said in a separate release.

In April, King signed a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies urging strong support and robust funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service Program.

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget threatens to eliminate the subsidy program that funnels millions of dollars to Maine each year to four small airports in Maine —

Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle, Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton, and Augusta State Airport have passenger flight service contracts that this year are being subsidized with approximately $10 million in total Essential Air Service funding.

Along with the state’s senators, U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin also indicated he was pleased with the FAA grant awards and said he is committed to continuing support for the Essential Air Service program.

“Maine’s regional airports play a crucial role in connecting local businesses, families and communities and supporting jobs across our state,” he said.