City supports proposed new airport terminal

1 year ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Presque Isle International Airport may soon have a new passenger terminal.

Airport officials will pursue a $1 million grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission for the project after the Presque Isle City Council voted Feb. 1 to issue a letter of support.

The council also heard a proposal for the grant funding from Northern Maine Community College, which proposed renovating a campus building into a community child care center. 

The airport would replace the passenger terminal with a new 22,000-square-foot facility that would cost around $29.8 million. About $19 million of that, or 70 percent, would come from the Federal Aviation’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law program for airport terminals, and The Maine Department of Transportation would provide a 2 percent match, according to Airport Director Scott Wardwell. 

“We’ve doubled our chances of getting the FAA money with an additional FAA program we didn’t know was going to be available, but we have to find other sources for that 30 percent,” Wardwell said.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration’s public works program could provide about $4 million, with the city contributing between $2 to $6 million, depending on state and federal government contributions, he said.

The airport submitted an application for the FAA airport terminal program in October but hasn’t received a response yet.

This is a once-in-a-generation chance to put federal money into Presque Isle, councilor Mike Chasse said, adding he felt the city should throw all its weight behind supporting the new airport terminal. 

Council chairperson Jacob Shaw suggested forming a new board to review requests like the Northern Border grants in the future.

The commission has awarded previous grants to the city including $250,000 for a five-unit commercial hangar in 2016, $500,00 to the Presque Isle Utilities District for sewer improvements on Presque Isle Industrial Park, and $59,800 to Northern Maine Community College for energy reduction, according to council information.

The utilities district had also proposed seeking a $1 million grant to fund an upgrade of the sewer and water system between Cedar and Pine streets, but district officials weren’t present to explain their proposal further.

NMCC President Tim Crowley and Griffin Goins, dean of development and public affairs, spoke about NMCC’s proposal to renovate Penobscot Hall, turning the space into a child care center that would provide paid services to the community. The center would serve as a model and provide hands-on training for students studying early childhood education.

“One of the workforce trends that became incredibly clear is that there were certain demographics that had challenges getting back into the workforce due to a lack of child care in the area,” Goins said.

Some parents were unable to attend classes at NMCC because existing child care centers were at capacity. Around 47 employment slots would be available to a majority of students, college employees, and the community to apply, Goins said. 

NMCC has estimated that the childcare center would cost $5.2 million and that the college has already raised a majority of the funds needed, Goins and Crowley said. The campus requested support of $350,000 through a Northern Border grant.

Northern Border Regional Commission grants require that counties be along the Canadian border and need a letter of support from the community, City Manager Martin Puckett said.

The council should choose one project at this time, Puckett said. Councilors voted to support the airport terminal.