[Note: This post has been updated to clarify the military affiliation of the former Roswell air base.]
The Roswell Air Center has been notified of its acceptance into the Military Airport Program, a grant funding program of the Federal Aviation Administration, and will receive $2 million in 2019 that can be used to improve airport parking as part of future terminal upgrades.
The funding comes after federal legislation was changed in October 2018 to make Roswell eligible for MAP grants. Until federal law was changed at the behest of Mayor Dennis Kintigh and New Mexico Congressional leaders, Roswell had been ineligible for that particular funding program. Previously only former military airports decommissioned after 1977 were eligible. The Roswell Air Center had been a U.S. Army and Air Force air base until its closing in 1967, when the airport and former air base properties were transferred to the city of Roswell.
“That gets us into the program for the next five federal fiscal years, and the first one is over at the end of this month,” said Air Center Director Scott Stark.
The Air Center received $2 million of $8 million available for this funding year, according to Roswell Air Center Manager Mark Bleth. MAP funding is about 4% of the money available as part of the Airport Improvement Program of the FAA, said Stark.
The AIP also is discretionary funding made available to airports based on their grant applications. Federal entitlement money for airports also comes through the FAA based on the size and activity of airports, and the Air Center receives about $1 million annually through the entitlement program.
Stark anticipated that the MAP funds will be available quickly, and said that city staff now will start plans about the specific type of parking improvements to be made.
“The design would come out of this grant as well,” said Stark. “We will start working on ideas next month, looking at the real estate that we have to use and how we might lay out parking lots and how that might function with an existing terminal building or an expanded one.”
The terminal expansion, which could involve extensive remodeling and increased space in the existing building at 1 Jerry Smith Circle or adding an additional building, has been discussed for some time, with presentations made at several city meetings by the architectural firm Gensler about various concepts. That project also would need additional grant or investor money.
Stark said that parking improvements could be seen within a year, as all that would need to be decided about the expanded terminal is its footprint, or the exact area that it would occupy.
Airport parking, which is free, is often at capacity now, as many of the Phoenix and Dallas commercial flights are full. During the Christmas season in 2017, about 100 vehicles were parked in non-authorized spots. The city built a new long-term lot about two years ago and has put some asphalt on a vacant lot to the west of the terminal to add parking spaces. Airport staff have said the city also needs to develop parking systems that ensure that only cars that can be moved quickly during emergencies are within 300 feet of the terminal.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.