The Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport has received another unexpected shot in the arm from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
County leaders were recently informed of an $8 million award from the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program (AIP), to go toward the long-awaited airport renovation project.
Earlier in the year, the airport received $18 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and designated a planned $2 million in discretionary funds from the FAA to the project as well.
The AIP funds come from a annual grant process in which the FAA doles out what they call entitlement and discretionary funds. Entitlement monies are based on passenger volume and discretionary funds are given out per the FAA’s understanding of an airport’s needs.
According to airport manager Rick Lamport, the FAA awarded $2.1 million in entitlement and $5.9 in discretionary funds locally.
However, not all of the money the airport has received will go toward the terminal project. Lamport said they allocated $4 million of the CARES money for facility operations and maintenance.
Still, Lamport told the Times the current renovation budget sits around $24 million — which is about twice the original amount identified for the project. Lamport explained that prior to the CARES Act allotment, the project was capped around $12.5 million.
Lamport and other county officials are currently planning how to efficiently utilize the funds.
“We didn’t know we were going to get all that money,” Lamport said. “There’s a lot that goes into these decisions, it’s not just a snap of your fingers and that’s that.”
Gunnison County Manager Matthew Birnie indicated that, after receiving the CARES funding, airport officials began talking about an “expanded scope” for the project.
“Instead of just focusing on heating and mechanical updates, this amount makes us able to really build the program that our (airport) studies and assessments have shown,” Birnie said. “We can accomplish more now. Before we were going to take half measures.”
Exactly what the expanded project will look like is still unclear. Birnie and Lamport are still holding firm to the first phase of the project though; building a unit to house the general equipment currently in the terminal to make room for the new additions. Lamport added access and geothermal surveys still need to take place prior to any construction.
“We’ll be doing all the behind the scenes things,” he said.
According to Birnie, work on the project is expected to begin next spring.
(Roberta Marquette can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)