The City of Smithville has been approved for more than $2.1 million in grants this year to help fund various airport improvement projects.
"Just this year in 2012, we've gotten approximately $2.1 million in grant funding for the airport," said Wesley Nokes, Manager of the Smithville Municipal Airport. "The overall cost to the city is going to average between 5 and 10% (grant match) or right around $200,000 or a little less," said Nokes.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) announced the latest grant for the Smithville Airport last week. This grant will help fund the design and construction of PAPI infrastructure. "This grant is for our PAPI lights, which are lights at the end of the runway that let the pilots know if they are on the right guide slope and if they are too high or too low coming in for approach for landing," said Nokes. "The wiring that supplies the electricity for these lights is extremely old. It was probably put in during the early 1970s. Its now dilapidated and corroded. This grant will replace all that wiring from the main hangar building out to each end of the runway, "he said.
Another airport project for which the city has been approved for grant funding is the resurfacing of the runway. "The first one (grant) we got this year was for just the engineering portion of the runway," said Nokes. "We're having the runway resurfaced and we are expanding the ramp and our parking area at the airport. We're repairing a spot of existing asphalt that has deteriorated probably due to an underground spring. The design for all that, the engineering portion of it, we got a grant for that and then we got a separate grant for the actual construction, the asphalt for the runway, the asphalt for the apron extension and to repair the older asphalt," said Nokes.
The city also plans to install a new fuel farm and begin offering jet fuel. "We got another grant for a new fuel farm which is for one hundred low lead and jet fuel," said Nokes. "We currently do not sell jet fuel at the airport so this will be a huge increase in traffic and revenue for us as we have not been able to provide that service before. But after this, we will. Even some of our current customers, businesses, and factories in the area that have corporate aircraft, when they come in they have no way of refueling here. They have to go somewhere else for fuel before they come in or after they leave so it will be a huge convenience factor for them and help us on the revenue aspect of it as well," he said. "The fuel farm construction hinges on the construction of the runway and the new part of the apron as the new fuel farm will be moved down to the end of the new apron expansion. There will be two above ground tanks. They will be twelve thousand gallon tanks. They will be operated on a self serve basis twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. They will be accessible by a debit or credit card," said Nokes.
Two other grants will help the city fund the purchase of a utility vehicle and a snow plow for the airport. "We got two grounds maintenance equipment grants," said Nokes. "One of those is for a utility vehicle, such as a John Deere Gator. That will be used for various grounds keeping activities at the airport such as spraying, weed eating, air field lighting repair, and that sort of thing," he said.
"The other one (grant) we got was for a snow plow to fit the current tractor that we have out here. We don't get a lot of snow in this area but when we do get some, if the need arises we'll be able to get the runway cleared off pretty quick without having to have the city or the county come out here and do it. That will be a huge help to us as well," said Nokes.
"Then we get a maintenance grant every year. It's a 50/50 matching grant. Its for basic general building repairs and computer system repairs. It covers lots of stuff. We get $29,000 a year for that. If we spend $29,000, the state will reimburse us $14,500," said Nokes.
According the Nokes, repairing the PAPI lights will most likely be the first airport project undertaken by the city. "The first project that will probably be done, depending on when the state gets the contracts out and everything, would be to repair the PAPI lights. A section of the existing ramp will have to be dug up to run those wires out to each end of the runway so that will be top priority to do that one first and then we can lay our new asphalt down over top of that," said Nokes.
The grants are made available through the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division.
The Division administers federal and state funding to assist in the location, design, construction and maintenance of Tennessee's diverse public aviation system.
Except for routine expenditures, grant applications are reviewed by the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission (TAC), which is a five member board charged with policy planning and with regulating changes in the state Airport System Plan. The board carefully reviews all applications for grants to ensure that the proper state and local matching funds are in place and that the grants will be used for needed improvements.
The TDOT Aeronautics Division has the responsibility of inspecting and licensing the state's 126 heliports and 75 public/general aviation airports. The Division also provides aircraft and related services for state government and staffing for the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission.