BRUNSWICK, Maine — A $600,000 federal grant announced Thursday by members of Maine’s congressional delegation is the latest installment of approximately $20 million that will flow to the former Brunswick Naval Air Station to convert the airport there from military to civilian use.
Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the conversion of the shuttered Navy base, said the $600,000 will be used to replace various military markings on the former base’s airfield with civilian ones. Since the Navy vacated the property in 2011, the airstrip area has been renamed Brunswick Executive Airport and the overall base property is now known as Brunswick Landing: Maine’s Center for Innovation.
“This is part of the overall military airports program we’re involved in with the FAA,” said Levesque. “This is part of a continuum. We’ll receive more than $20 million in the next four years.”
Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, in a joint release, said the U.S. Department of Transportation grant comes through the Airport Improvement Program’s Military Airport Program, and will help with deterring unauthorized access to the airfield in accordance with FAA standards.
“This DOT funding is certainly welcome news and will help make vital improvements at the Brunswick Executive Airport,” they said in a joint statement. “The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority has worked tirelessly to ensure Brunswick Landing is an economic beacon in our great state and the Brunswick Executive Airport helps to achieve that goal as a critical transportation center.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said the investment will help the airfield continue its transition to private use while improving safety.
“The Brunswick Executive Airport is a critical piece of redeveloping the naval base into a new economic engine for the area,” said Pingree in a written statement. “It’s an important piece in the facility’s new chapter and I’m excited to see what it will look like. In the end, this helps to redevelop the base and create local jobs without putting additional burdens on local taxpayers.”
Levesque said the MRRA and state of Maine need to match the federal grants at a rate of 2.5 percent, which Levesque said will be covered by existing resources and not bond proceeds approved by Maine voters in 2009, which Gov. Paul LePage has said could be held back until at least 2014. The MRRA is expecting about $1.8 million from those bonds, which would leverage about $1.7 million in federal matching funds for safety and building code improvements facilitywide. Levesque has said his organization is working to convince the LePage Administration of the importance of that money, and LePage in turn has said he is open to such discussions.
Levesque said the airport improvement money will vastly transform the form and function of Brunswick Executive Airport. By the time the extended grant program is finished, he expects numerous improvements to existing facilities — including upgrades on and around the runways, such as new radio equipment, lighting and wildlife fencing — as well as several new T-shaped hangars.
Brunswick Landing already is home to several new tenants, including an aircraft manufacturer, a health care company and a community college, but much of the property remains vacant. Levesque said the FAA’s grant program as well as several lines of funding are being used to make the facility as attractive as possible to civilian tenants.