Funding, cost issues force airport remodel back to the drawing board
By Kyle Vuille
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
After county officials and the Dawson County Airport Board made the decision in October to move forward on renovations of the the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration funding for the project has fallen significantly short and estimations for the project came up higher than expected.
Because the funding situation has changed, the plan designer at KLJ Engineering went back to the drawing board to develop a new blueprint of renovations that can be done in two phases.
On Thursday Dec. 21, the airport board and county commissioners met with Craig Canfield, KLJ project manager, as well as the architect Dan Schaff and Tom Schauer, former program director for the FAA, via conference call. The board and the commissioners spoke to Schaff and Schauer about the details of the new approach to the renovations as well as funding questions.
With the original renovation estimate higher than originally thought and the funding coming up short, the board questioned Shower about eligibility requirements for the FAA’s non-primary entitlement funds.
for the FAA’s non-primary entitlement funds. A portion of the funding for Dawson’s airport renovation is supposed to come from other surrounding airports, which each receive $150,000 a year for projects. The issue is that area airport officials have not agreed to contribute funding.
Canfield said he has received funds from Powder River County and has been corresponding with Rosebud County, but officials there have not fully agreed to donate their funds. He also mentioned Roosevelt County as a possible contributor, but also noted those officials would want some of the money back once the project is complete.
Schauer explained that each airport has four years to collect $150,000 a year, but once the airport is into the fifth year of collections, they must use or transfer a year’s worth of their funds or the airport will lose a year’s worth of collections.
He said the FAA is becoming stricter on what those funds can be used for, adding the FAA mostly allocates these funds towards projects involving safety issues and runway maintenance.
The new blueprint and renovation plans had to be created with consideration of the time it may to come up with the funding. Schaff drafted up a two-phase design in which the existing terminal building will remain functional with two additions that will be done according to the availability of funding.
Phase one of the project will include construction of three restrooms (one unisex), two corridor hallways, mechanic/electrical room, flight planning room, exit lobby and a vestibule exit. This phase will bridge of the existing breezeway.
Phase two of the project will include construction of the new TSA screening area, the lobby, Cape Air office, TSA office, Cape Air ticket counter, baggage return/garage and two vestibule exit doors.
The commissioners and airport board members expressed concern about finishing phase one, but coming up short on the phase two.
Schaff and Canfield both noted that phase one will take care of the most urgent issues including the bathroom health code violations.
Questions and concerns about what will happen once phase one is complete. The unknown availability of funds for phase two could leave a half finished project on the airport board and county’s hands.
Canfield did not have any firm numbers on estimates of the project or even the individual phases.
Throughout the meeting, mentions of hidden costs like the new septic system that is necessary for the project were discussed, but no firm figures were given about what costs the county could incur.
Board member Craig Stebbins pushed Canfield for specific information about the project and funding. He questioned if the original renovation plans are completely out of the question and if the airport board should remain hopeful they will receive the additional FAA funding.
Canfield stated he would firm up some of the estimated costs for construction and continue pursuing other airports’ non-primary entitlement funds as well as look into other streams of revenue to fund the project.
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