Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, announced Friday that two local airports would receive $211,250 from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Bethel Regional Airport is getting $140,000, while Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport was awarded $71,250.
“The airports are the gateway for countless tourists, business travelers, and residents each year,” said Snowe and Collins in a joint statement. “It is important that we continually invest in and improve Maine’s airports, both big and small, so that we may enhance and maintain critical infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted operations at all of these airports.”
Rick Cloutier, manager of the Auburn airport, said the funds will be allocated to toward a purchase of 25 acres on South Main Street.
“This grant is one of the steps in a bigger process,” Cloutier said. “We actually have another grant pending, also.”
The Auburn airport is waiting for approval on a $5.6 million grant from the FAA for construction of a new taxiway. As the expansion will affect two acres of wetlands, the South Main Street land will be deeded to the Androscoggin Land Trust for wetlands mitigation, as required by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Scott Cole, manager of the Bethel airport, said the funds there will be allocated toward several improvements.
“It’s a potpourri of miniature small projects that add up to that kind of money,” Cole said.
Improvements will include the installation of an automated entrance gate, the paving of the hangar access road, repair of up to 1,000 feet of runway cracks, installation of a rail fence to prevent vehicles from entering the apron, and the installation of lights to illuminate the windsock.
Cole said the airports receive funding from the FAA on the condition that the money goes toward improvements that are consistent with a master plan for the airport’s future. The deadline to apply for FAA funding was May 1.
According to Oxford County commissioners, the FAA funds can only be used for safety issues. The commissioners did not apply for federal funds for the county-owned Oxford Regional Airport, citing a 20-year commitment entered upon on acceptance of the funds.