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Air Center learns of new federal grant

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Lisa Dunlap Photo The Roswell Air Center expects about $3 million from its second federal Military Airport Program grant.

The Roswell Air Center has received news about a new grant of about $3 million.

It has been awarded a second Military Airport Program grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Air Center Director Scott Stark.

Stark said the funding will be used to begin upgrades to the ramp area near the air terminal, which runs from the general aviation area west of the airfield, to the northeast side of the airfield near Hangar 85, now occupied by AerSale.

The Roswell City Council still must vote to authorize the city to accept the grant.

The ramp rehabilitation project is expected to require several phases, and the new MAP grant would enable the work to begin.

Stark said the existing ramp is made up of both asphalt and concrete, which date back to the time when the airfield was part of a U.S. military airbase. Over time, parts of the ramp have started to crack, crumble and separate at the joints. Repairing the ramps will improve safety for planes, Stark said.

“As they get older and it cracks like that, (they) will start sloughing off rocks and pieces of the concrete and those can be picked up by jet engines and by props,” he said.

Stark said the exact amount of the grant will be determined later, but should be about $3 million. The funds could be available any time now, but certainly by the end of September, the end of federal fiscal year 2020.

He said he was grateful to the FAA and that he thinks a project to repair a ramp created when the airfield was a military base “fits very well with the MAP grant program.”

This is the second MAP grant the Air Center has received after Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh worked with congressional representatives to change the criteria for the program. Previously, only military bases decommissioned after 1977 were eligible for funding. The law change that took effect in October 2018 allowed any military base closed after 1965 to be eligible. The Roswell Air Center was a military airbase until 1967.

Last year about this time, the Roswell Air Center was awarded a $2 million grant that the city is using to upgrade passenger and visitor parking.

That project is still in design, Stark said, and could possibly go into construction by the fall. He said he would like to see covered parking. Whatever improvements are made, the new area will be paid parking, he said.

Stark also talked about other growth at the Air Center during a Thursday meeting with the city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission.

He said the airport is now storing about 470 airplanes, up about 310 craft during the past few months, as commercial airliners were forced to stop most passenger service during the coronavirus crisis.

Air Center staff are working with consultants and some airline leaders to determine the best way to park the aircraft for safety as well as maximum storage capacity. He said there could be hundreds of more airplanes coming to the airport in the coming months. The airline industry is expected to restructure, and Stark said they will likely need to move many of its planes out of short-term storage to long-term storage.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.