A $7.4 million grant announced this week by the Federal Aviation Administration will boost a long-planned project to build a new rescue and firefighting building at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
The grant was announced by Cong. Bill Keating’s office Wednesday.
Considered a key safety upgrade at the Island’s only commercial airport, the 20,000-square-foot aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) building has been on the drawing board for a number of years. It became delayed during a prolonged period of internal problems at the airport that culminated late last year with the resignation of former airport manager Sean Flynn.
Since then the airport commission has hired a new manager and been working to correct deficiencies at the airport that had been flagged by the FAA. Getting the ARFF building project back on track has been a top priority for airport leaders.
Airport manager Ann Crook said Wednesday that the grant will not cover all of the $10.5 million project but will go a long way. The airport already has $1.6 million set aside, and now anticipates receiving some state grant funding as well.
“We are very happy with this announcement,” Ms. Crook said Wednesday. “We definitely have enough to get started.”
The grant comes in the form of reimbursable funds.
Design work for the new building is complete and a construction bid has been awarded to J.K. Scanlon of Falmouth. Ms. Crook said she anticipates construction will begin in early November.
The new building will replace the current aging ARFF building at the airport which is considered inadequate for housing firefighting and rescue equipment. The old building is also oriented poorly, a deficiency that will be corrected with the new building, Ms. Crook said. “The alignment is not good and the FAA had an issue with that,” she said.
The ARFF building is required under FAA regulations for airports that serve airlines, she said. Since the building will also be used to house snow removal equipment, some parts of the project were not eligible for FAA funding.
Logistical considerations were also an issue, since there needed to be a place to house the equipment during construction of the new building. Ms Crook said the equipment will temporarily housed in a hangar.
In sum, she said the grant announcement represents a solid step forward for the airport.
“This is really great because this project has been languishing for five years,” she said. “The fact that it has not been built already as been a real issue with the FAA as far as compliance goes. For awhile there our relationship with the FAA was not good — that is repaired now and the fact that they are giving us this grant shows it.”