Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Teton Airport Commission reviews scope of grant application: Choteau Airport (KCII), Montana

The Teton Airport Commission, meeting June 13, reviewed the scope of a $324,285 grant application submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration and directed its consulting engineer to take the next steps to update Choteau Airport’s 17-year old master plan.

The plan is necessary because the airport has been ineligible for federal development funding except in emergencies since the FAA determined Choteau Airport is in noncompliance of several previous grant assurances.

They include allowing the privately-owned Yeager hangar to operate a non-aeronautical repair shop on land designated for airport use. The remedy proposed is for the county/city to purchase the building at some point, with the help of future FAA grants or at a minimum, to designate that building as a non-aeronautical space on an updated airport layout plan.

Added to that, the FAA will not allow the Yeager family to sell the hangar because the underlying land is listed only for aeronautical use. Harold Yeager disputes that his operation is completely non-aeronautic in that he welcomes pilots who use his office space when they fly in. However, the FAA ruling stands.

DOWL airport consultants Jim Greil and Mike Beckhoff gave Airport Board members Mike Campbell, Scott Gasvoda and Chairman Eric Gunderson the funding details of the grant and the engineering contract signed by Teton County and city of Choteau officials that are half owners of the airport. Members David Hirschfeld and Bill Woodhouse were absent.

The master plan update including an airport geographic information system survey will cost $321,285.38 with 90 percent to be from the FAA. The project also required an additional independent fee estimate that cost $3,000 which can be rolled into the FAA grant. The Teton Airport Commission will be responsible for $32,428.54, and it will apply for a grant and/or loan from the Montana Aeronautics Division of the Montana Department of Transportation to defray some of that 10 percent cost share. The airport board did not discuss how it would set aside the money to pay its share. It receives a half mill, about $8,500 from property taxes, and operates three airports — Choteau, Dutton and Fairfield.

The master plan includes:

•A forecast of aircraft operations and based aircraft,

•A determination of a critical aircraft,

•A future airside development list to enhance revenue generation,

•A determination of the future use of the Yeager hangar,

•An analysis of existing and proposed instrument approaches,

•An update of the airport’s capital improvement plan,

•An update of the airport layout plan, and

•A data collection for the safety-critical airport geographical information survey.

DOWL will also convene a required teleconference meeting at the county commissioners’ office at 10 a.m. on June 28 for disadvantaged business enterprises (minority and women-owned) to ask questions about contracting business with the airport.

As reported in January, the master plan update process was stalled in 2016 when the Airport Board learned, after a Farm Service Agency review, it would not receive the two remaining $10,000 rental payments for the acres the board has enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Gunderson discussed at an earlier meeting what some of the options were when the CRP contract expires in October.

The board discussed the master plan process at length at a March 16 meeting, noting that the plan projects 20 years into the future.

Greil noted that one more element of the master plan process is to create a six-member advisory committee that includes local business owners, city and county officials, an emergency services representative and an airport tenant. Its outreach would collect information on how the community uses the airport, among other things. Greil invited anyone interested in being on the committee to contact him.

In other business, the Airport Commission agreed to change the headings of Runway 14-32 at the Choteau Airport to Runway 15-33. The new approach is scheduled for publishing on Sept. 13, 2018, because the earth’s magnetic declination has changed and runway designations are based on that deviation from true north. The work will require removing the old numbers on the pavement and changing guidance signs.

Lastly, the Fairfield Airport received a $10,000 state grant that Gasvoda said would pay for redoing the deteriorated aprons in front of the hangars.

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