By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby announced last week that 25 municipal airports across Alabama will receive a total of $60,999,054 in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants. Atmore will receive a nice slice of that pie.
The funding, some of which is from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020, was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation for various airport improvements. The CARES Airport Grant Act covers the grant’s required local match.
“These grants will support airport infrastructure improvements to 25 Alabama airports and allow operations to continue as they work to minimize the negative effects of COVID-19,” Shelby said in a press release. “It is important that we invest in advancing our airports, particularly those in rural areas which have a significant economic impact on local communities. This $61 million in DOT funding for aviation in Alabama is great news and will contribute to the vitality of our entire state.”
Atmore Mayor Jim Staff said the FAA funding — up to $333,333 — would go toward sealing the Atmore Municipal Airport’s runway surface and its pavement joints. He said the city had been socking away its annual FAA allocation of $150,000 — from aircraft fuel tax revenues — for some time now, trying to save enough for the runway upgrade to meet the increased demand from commercial and private air traffic.
Funds provided through the CARES Act will cover the local match for the airport improvement projects., so city officials can start seriously looking toward building new hangars for use by a waiting list of customers of the local landing strip.
“We had to save up the $150,000 a year that we get for fuel tax, try and keep some of that so we can build some hangars,” Staff said. “We’ve got more airplanes out there now than Atmore has ever seen. We’ve got 10 planes in one hangar, and 10 in the other hangar, and we’ve got applications for 10 more in each one.”
The FAA grants are administered through Fiscal Year 2020 Airport Improvement Program annual and supplemental awards.
Bids for the project will be let May 8, and things should begin to happen fairly quickly after that.
“We don’t have any more ‘red tape’ to go through,” Staff said.