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City asks for $5 million from state for Air Center

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CAVU Aerospace now occupies Building 84 at the Roswell Air Center. The city is considering various alternatives for raising the money to expand the hangar. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Separate from county request, funding would be used for Hangar 84

The city of Roswell has asked the New Mexico Governor’s Office for a $5 million capital outlay request for a hangar expansion at the Roswell Air Center.

Mayor Dennis Kintigh told members of the city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission on Thursday that the city requested a capital outlay award to pay part of the costs involved in expanding Hangar 84 so that it can accommodate the large aircraft in use today.

“Just because it is on the list does not mean that it is approved,” he said. “And even if it is passed by the Legislature, the Governor’s Office does have line-item veto authority. But it is in the mix.”

The Capital Outlay Bureau of the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration handles requests made through the Governor’s Office.

A spokesman for the department said that formal decisions have not been made on applications yet.

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“The funded project list has not been finalized and given to the Legislature,” said Henry Valdez, public information officer with the department.

The city’s request is separate from the $5 million state capital outlay request that Chaves County has made through area legislators. That funding is meant to develop infrastructure at the Air Center.

The county previously received a $5 million capital outlay award from the Legislature in 2020. Although city and county officials expressed some frustration over the financial difficulties involved in using a county allocation for city-owned property, they eventually agreed that $3 million will be used for site work for a new wide-body hangar intended to be occupied by Ascent Aviation Services Inc., which plans to expand here from Phoenix. Another $2 million is planned for replacing and upgrading water lines and perhaps sewer lines on the south side of the airfield.

Hangar 84 is now occupied by CAVU Aerospace, a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operation, and the city intends to add a “dog house” to it so that the longer and larger commercial jets used by airlines, freight companies and other companies can fit entirely inside. Some types of maintenance required by the Federal Aviation Administration can be approved only if the work occurs indoors, city staff have said.

The cost of that project is estimated at about $8 million, with most of that cost associated with the hangar expansion and some with a ramp upgrade.

Air Center Director Scott Stark indicated that the city is still in the running to receive about $2 million for the project from the U.S. Economic Development Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The grant would come from the EDA’s Recovery Assistance program, which was created from funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

He also said that CAVU has committed at least $500,000 to the project.

“Funding for this continues to be the question mark,” Kintigh said. “I don’t think there is any question about the need to upgrade the facility. We want hangars capable of handling modern aircraft. Otherwise we don’t do anything but park.”

Stark agreed, saying MROs at the airfield have talked about the need.

“As you all have heard from different sources, that’s what we need more than anything,” he said. “That is what is missing in our puzzle at this point in the MRO world.”

Stark also said that he is following state Senate Bill 133, although the bill would need to be amended if it is to benefit Roswell.

Now before the Senate Finance Committee, the Rural Air Service Enhancement Act would create a grant program of $9 million a year so that rural cities and counties in New Mexico could provide minimum revenue guarantees to passenger airline service companies as an incentive from them to fly into smaller communities where flight occupancy rates and profits might be low, especially when service is first introduced.

Right now, the current wording of the bill states that funding would only be available for service provided by twin-engine turbo prop aircraft service. Stark said that means the grants are intended for very small counties and cities. The airline passenger planes servicing Roswell, he said, are all twin-engine jets.

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