Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
By Shelley Grieshop
Airport expansion
Lakefield Airport gets $68,000 grant to accommodate bigger aircraft
  Lakefield Airport in Montezuma has been approved for a $68,000 grant to accommodate bigger aircraft and make the airfield safer.
Mercer County commissioners, acting as administrators for the county-owned airport, held a special meeting Monday to approve and sign the grant agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Notice of the award was received by airport officials on Friday. The paperwork had to be signed and returned to FAA officials by noon Monday, according to contract terms.
The airport must put up 5 percent of the grant amount or approximately $3,700. In lieu of paying the local match, county land will become FAA right-of-way - action they've frequently taken in the past, commissioners said.
Airport Manager Scott Arnold said a little more than half of the grant funding will be used to finance engineering and design work for a ramp area to park larger aircraft. The ramp will be built south of the main terminal building, he said.
"They (larger aircraft) have bigger wingspans and require a larger turning radius," Arnold said. "We have to be able to move them around safely to fuel up and park."
An older airplane hanger may have to be moved, he said.
Last fall, airport officials completed a nearly $1 million runway extension project to enable larger aircraft to land at the rural airport. The runway was extended from 3,800 feet to 4,600 feet. For the first time in the airport's history, corporate jets - such as those owned by NASCAR and other race car drivers destined for Eldora - have begun landing at Lakefield, Arnold said.
The entire runway was repaved and workers currently are adding precision lighting to the approach areas, he said.
The remaining portion of the grant money will be used to reshape a dip in the ground at the far east end of the airport property. The dirt area will be filled in and kept as a safety zone if needed for emergencies, Arnold said.
The airport board continues to aggressively seek grant funding - all through the FAA - to help pay for upgrades and equipment. Arnold and board President Steve Klosterman have said they feel Lakefield is a great asset to the county for bringing new industry and tourism dollars to the area.
Like area villages, the airport board also is hoping to get federal stimulus money for "shovel-ready projects," Arnold said. The board has applied for $186,000 in order to continue making upgrades and enhancements, he added.
"If we don't get it in stimulus funding we'll try to get it through the FAA," he said.
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