By Bill Trotter
ELLSWORTH, Maine — A proposed expansion of the Hancock County airport in Trenton could end up costing the county only about $450,000, county commissioners were told Tuesday.
The overall projected cost of the building expansion, which would more than double the size of the building, is about $2.5 million, according to an aviation consultant advising the county on the project.
The Federal Aviation Administration would pay the vast majority of that cost, with the exception of elements of the building that FAA deems unnecessary for aviation purposes.
Allison Rogers, manager of the Hancock County Bar Harbor Airport, and Karen Frink of aviation consulting firm Hoyle Tanner and Associates, based in Manchester, N.H., told commissioners that the FAA allows limited leeway for parts of a project that may or may not be considered eligible for FAA funding. Certain revenue generating features such as a cafe or even space for car rental companies generally are not considered eligible for FAA funding, they said, but it could be argued that car rental services are an extension of providing air passengers with transportation services.
“FAA is not going to build you something to make money,” Rogers said.
Of the project’s $2.5 million projected cost, the FAA likely would pay $1.9 million. The county and Maine Department of Transportation each would be expected to pay $107,500 as their shares of the building project that is necessary for aviation services.
The county would be expected to pay for additional features that are not eligible for FAA funding, such as a possible food service area. That additional cost is projected to be $350,000, which would make the county’s share $457,500.
According to proposed designs presented Tuesday to the commissioners, the project would involve renovating the existing 3,500 square foot building, which was built in 1976, and adding on an additional 5,500 square feet of space, most of it to the northern end of the existing building. New secure passenger screening and waiting areas, complete with restrooms, would be built on the building’s north end. A new arrival area — possibly with an indoor, lifelike metal tree, Rogers said — would be built next to the new departure area, and a second set of bathrooms would be added to the south end of the existing building.
The existing building would be renovated to include new areas for ticketing, baggage check and claim, car rentals, office space, and possibly a food vendor. The new overall design is expected to result in better passenger flow through the building than the current design.
“During peak operation, it’s a madhouse in there,” Rogers said. “I think we’ve come up with [a new design] that will last another 30 years.”
In other business, county commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding with the Rocky Mountain Trail Riders all-terrain vehicle club to allow ATV riders to operate along a five-mile section of Nicatous Lake Road. According to Hancock County Clerk Cynthia DePrenger, the memorandum establishes a one-year trial period that can be revoked by commissioners at any time. Under the arrangement, she said, the ATV club assumes responsibility for all resulting or relevant signage, damage, litter and general ATV use along the permitted section of road.
Commissioners also approved a memorandum of understanding with Phil Roy about how he is expected to balance his job as Hancock County’s chief financial officer with his new role as an elected commissioner in Somerset County.
Among other things, the memorandum requires Roy, who lives in Fairfield and commutes daily to Ellsworth, to limit his time dealing with Somerset County-related texts, phone calls and emails while he is on the job in Hancock County. It also stipulates that any time Roy spends attending to Somerset County business during working hours in Hancock County will count toward his vacation time allotment in Hancock County.