DEXTER, Maine — This town will have one of the “best little airports” in the region thanks to a $3.8 million donation through the federal stimulus package, according to Dexter Town Manager Dave Pearson.
The town received the largest of three allocations made in the state by the Federal Aviation Administration. Trenton received $1.2 million and Augusta received $500,000. These funds do not require a local match.
Pearson said that if the town had to pay the usual 2.5 percent or 5 percent match, the project would never have happened.
“I think it’s a tremendous thing. It will definitely create jobs for the construction phase, and I’m glad to see some money spent here in Maine rather than Iraq,” Pearson said Friday. “It sounds like a lot of money and it is. For an airport our size — it’s going to totally transform that airport. We spend that much every couple of hours in Iraq and what have we got to show for it? At least here, we should have probably the best little airport around here.”
Roger Nelson, airport manager of the unattended airport, said this week he was very pleased the town received the funding.
The airport was constructed in 1941 as an auxiliary airport to the former Dow Field in Bangor, according to Nelson. It has seen much growth over the years. Corporate officials on their way to and from local industries in the area and seasonal residents frequent the airport, he said. In addition, the Dexter Aero Club, an active flying club, has two aircraft stationed at the airport. The pilots, who first organized about 30 years ago, share the experience of flying at a more affordable cost by pooling their resources.
Town officials have tried for years to secure funding to improve the safety of the airport, which has a line of sight problem. The stimulus funds will allow the removal of a hump in the middle of the runway to eliminate that line of sight problem and allow for an extension of the runway, Pearson said. The runway will be extended by about 240 feet so it can accommodate larger airplanes. In addition, the runway lighting will be changed from low- to medium-intensity, he said.
Unrelated to this latest allocation is a $600,000 project to remove obstructions around the airport, expected to begin later this spring. The project, which was already in the pipeline, is being done with a combination of local, state and federal funds. The town’s share of the $600,000 project is 2.5 percent, which has been budgeted. Pearson said bids for this project are expected to be solicited next month.
Pearson hopes to solicit bidding for the line of sight issue and its companion work in June or July.
Since the emphasis of the stimulus funds is the creation of jobs, Pearson said that will be the case during the construction phase. There will be a lot of earth-moving and paving, and the selected contractor will be asked to hire as many local people as possible.
Once the project is finished in 2010, Pearson said, it’s hard to tally how many jobs it will have created. “We have a couple of companies locally that claim they will use the airport more if they can get bigger planes in there,” he said.
The stimulus funds will allow the town to complete the improvements at the airport identified in the master plan. The only thing the funds will not do is provide a fuel storage facility, Pearson said. That might be something town officials may want to do in future years, he said.