GREENVILLE, Maine — It was considered a “contentious” issue, but there was no contention Wednesday when residents voted 12-2 to appropriate up to $1.8 million to rehabilitate a runway at the municipal airport and to borrow up to $45,710 as the local share.
The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to pay for 95 percent of the project. The Maine Department of Transportation and the town will each fund 2.5 percent of the cost, or $45,710, according to Greenville Town Manager John Simko.
Simko said the project was included in the FAA’s and DOT’s Aviation Capital Improvement Plan about six years ago for funding in 2010, the same year a large number of other airport projects in the state are expected to be done.
Because the DOT was concerned it might not be able to afford its 2.5 percent match for all the projects that year, the state, with FAA approval, asked Greenville if it would move the project to 2009.
“We were glad to do the project, but recognized that we would have to come up with the then-estimated local match of $55,000 a year earlier,” Simko said. A couple of possibilities were suggested to find the funds outside of property taxes, but the ideas were nixed either by the FAA or the state, he said.
While the project was already out to bid and the deadline for the federal and state grants of May 1 was met, the FAA would not award the town the grant or allow it to award a contract until it had secured the local match, so the matter could not wait until the annual June town meeting, according to Simko.
Simko told the small audience Wednesday night that there is a possibility the town could get a separate grant in 2010 to fund an automated weather observation system at the airport to provide updated weather information to LifeFlight and other pilots.
Geno Murray, CEO at Charles A. Dean Memorial Hospital, told residents at the special town meeting that it was urgent for the weather system upgrade. He said there have been at least five times when LifeFlight has headed to Greenville to pick up a critical care patient, only to have to turn around because of weather.
Having LifeFlight available can make the difference for these critically ill patients, Murray said. “Many lives have been saved in this community by LifeFlight,” he said.
Simko said it appears the weather system could be installed this summer using town and LifeFlight funds separate from the runway project. The town could then apply to the FAA in September for 95 percent of the approximately $80,000 project cost, he said. Those funds would then be used to pay off the local match of the run-way project loan, rather than asking for a direct appropriation, he said.
If the FAA does not approve its share of the weather system cost, there will be no impact on the property taxes this year, Simko said. The loan for the runway project would then be executed and the financial impact on the budget next year would be about $9,000. That would represent a $4.11 increase in property taxes on a home assessed at $150,000, he said.
Simko also noted this is the first year since he has been town manager that the airport has generated more revenue than was paid out by the town for its operation.