LAKE WALES - The city has been rejected for a grant to extend its airport runway, but Economic Development Director Harold Gallup said the city will try again.
Gallup said the city applied for a grant from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, or TIGER. It invests in highways, railroads, ports or other transit projects that promise to help critical national transportation needs.
Gallup said that U.S. Department of Transportation officials told him they would fund a port, but not an airport, based on their view of how it would help the community.
Gallup told the Lake Wales City Commission that without that grant, the city is about $5 million short of being able to do the runway extension, an amount he described as "all of it."
"We'll take another run at it," Gallup told commissioners.
The city doesn't have money to do the project on its own, he said.
The city has been in the process of updating the Lake Wales Municipal Airport Master Plan during this fiscal year. Part of that plan is to extend the east-west runway 6-24 from its current length of 4,000 feet to 5,400 feet.
The airport's north-south runway, 17-35, is used less often, according to city records.
According to the city's project tracking report, the budget for the project is $4.3 million to $5.3 million.
Gallup said a longer runway would help bring in bigger planes - especially corporate jets - and bring in industrial development.
Gallup also said last fall that improving the city's airport - which sits on State Road 60 near the future CSX facility - would help reduce logistics' concerns from prospective companies.
Bringing in manufacturing still has challenges, Gallup said at the time, one of which includes the need to extend city water and sewer lines west on SR 60.
The tracking report states that Lake Wales still needs to complete its airport master plan, which is 98 percent done.
Property has already been bought to provide environmental mitigation, the report states, and according to city records, the city first got land to extend the runway four years ago.
The City Commission voted 4 to 0 on July 15, 2008, to spend $1.58 million from the Economic Development Trust Fund Grant to buy approximately 60 acres from David Crews.
It was part of an effort led by Florida Senator J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, to acquire $3 million as a start to extend the runway and improve the airport.
The airport still has other hurdles to overcome, however.
City Attorney Albert C. Galloway said that the city is also under litigation involving insurance claims, dating back to the 2004 hurricane season, from the fixed base operator and the skydiving operation that were on site at the time.