Mitchell airport gets $6.7 million in stimulus funding

Mitchell Municipal Airport soon will undergo its largest capital project in more than 60 years, aided by a multimillion-dollar federal stimulus grant.

Mitchell Municipal Airport soon will undergo its largest capital project in more than 60 years, aided by a multimillion-dollar federal stimulus grant.

Public Works Director Tim McGannon learned Thursday that the airport will receive $6.7 million from the Federal Aviation Administration. McGannon said the grant will go to rebuilding Mitchell Municipal Airport's 12-30 main runway, so named because it runs southeast-to-northwest on a 120-degree to 300-degree compass heading. It is the largest capital project undertaken at the airport since it was built in the 1940s.

The money is from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which includes $1.3 billion the FAA can use to improve air transportation infrastructure.

The reconstruction of the 7,000-foot runway and improved lighting was already part of a five-year capital improvement plan for improving the airport facility, McGannon said. Under that five-year plan, engineering design originally was scheduled for completion in 2010 and runway reconstruction by 2011.

"With the price tag, we weren't sure we were ever going to be able to get the money to do it," he said.


George Bittner, a member of the airport board, said the cash windfall is "good news for the airport."

"With the new funds, we'll be able to complete both projects by this fall," he said. Other members of the board are Tom Case, Ray Roby, Darren Brewster and Dave Muth. City Councilman Scott Houwman is an ex-officio board member.

McGannon credited the board with stepping up the project timetable when its members learned that federal stimulus funds might become available for shovel-ready projects.

"We've been doing the engineering for several months, hoping we'd be ready," McGannon said.

Helms & Associates of Aberdeen is the engineer on the project. Helms was given a five-year consulting contract by the airport board two years ago.

McGannon declined to release preliminary cost figures until project plans are designed, but said the project includes runway rebuilding and new lighting.

The plans call for tearing out all existing pavement down to about three feet, building up a gravel base and installing new pavement.

The runway was originally built during World War II, but the city has added several layers of pavement over the years.


The new runway project will provide a modern facility in keeping with the upscale traffic the airport receives, said McGannon.

"We see $15 million to $50 million corporate jets come in during hunting season. They're landing on basically three wheels, so it's like landing a tricycle at 150 mph. These runways have to be just about perfect," he said.

Plans will be ready in about a month and a half, the project will be put out to bid in 30 to 60 days, and the project should be completed by the end of September, said McGannon.

The city plans to keep the second 5,500-foot north-south runway open during most construction, said McGannon.

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