Senators support Greenville airport upgrade

Posted Nov. 20, 2008, at 7:51 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:58 a.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — Support from U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins is expected to expedite an upgrade of the Greenville Municipal Airport’s automated surface observation system.

Town officials and local pilots have worked for more than six years to get the National Weather Service to upgrade its system at the airport so pilots can get accurate weather updates. In recent months, however, they learned the system now in place cannot be upgraded and a new system is needed to get an improved forecast.

“We don’t have the weather data we need to create an airport forecast, we don’t have the safety information for pilots and we don’t have the instrumentation to get that data,” Greenville Town Manager John Simko said Wednesday.

“The way it is now they give generalities,” pilot Telford Allen II of Telford Aviation in Bangor told selectmen. For example, the pilots now receive a forecast that it might rain, or it might be partly sunny. An automated surface observation system gives specifics just like the systems at Bangor, Portland or Presque Isle airports, he noted. “It’s a very desirable thing for pilots coming to Greenville,” he said.

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Frustrated with their lack of success, town officials enlisted the help of Snowe and Collins.

In a joint letter dated Nov. 17, the senators urged William Brennan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C., to provide the $110,000 needed to make the upgrade at the Greenville airport.

“This upgrade is vital for safe expansion of operations at the airport,” Snowe and Collins wrote. The pair also noted that the Moosehead Lake region and the airport likely would be used more once Plum Creek’s development plan moves forward.

There are two options for a weather station at the local airport: one funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and the other by the National Weather Service, Simko said. The NWS weather station is favored because the organization does all of its testing and its calibrations at no cost to the town. If the town has to install an FAA device, the town would have to hire a company to take care of its upkeep, he said.

If there is a collateral cost to the capital side of the project, the LifeFlight Foundation has set aside $55,000 secured through a Maine transportation bond about five years ago to make safety upgrades, Simko said. Those funds are available through June 30, 2009.

In addition, a recognition was read from Gov. John Baldacci praising the heroic efforts of Police Chief Scott MacMaster and Warden Sgt. William Chandler during an armed standoff last summer in Greenville.

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