Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State's General Airports Get Head Start on Improvements

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State's General Airports Get Head Start on Improvements

Article excerpt

TULSA -- Loosening federal purse strings and innovative ways to spend the money means Oklahoma's general aviation airports can get a big start on needed improvements.

"This year as part of the non-primary entitlement (of federal aviation funds), Oklahoma will get $7.9 million, which will be about $150,000 per airport," said Bill Miller, director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics and Space Commission. "Our total entitlement will be $13.7 million for the next couple of years."

The non-primary entitlement is basically aimed at bringing older airports back to standards with specific projects, Miller said. These projects can run the gamut of public use facilities at an airport.

Sponsors of local airports still will be required to put up local and state match money to obtain the federal grants.

An innovative twist is that several projects will be lumped together as a single state program that needs to be funded, Miller said. This will mean that more money will come to the airports than if they were to try for the money individually.

Also, the state is changing the rule for local match. The formula was 80 percent federal and the remaining 20 percent any combination of state and local money.

Under a plan Miller is submitting to the Federal Aviation Administration, the federal government would pay 60 percent and the state and local governments would each pay 20 percent.

"With this funding formula, I'm hopeful that the FAA will be more willing to look at our projects," Miller said.

The $13.7 million in federal funding is about twice what the state received in the previous fiscal year, Miller said.

It's a far cry, though, from earlier years.

When the state receives its fiscal year 2001 money, which begins Oct. 1, it will get $13.7 million, up from $6.2 million in fiscal 2000, and up considerably from the $3.7 million in fiscal 1999 and the $3 million in fiscal 1998.

"What this money will allow us to do," Miller said, "is to address the needs that we've had so long, but just couldn't pay for."

Another innovative program expected to be a boon for local airports involves the use of corporate jets and large twin engine aircraft.

Under this program, owners of the more expensive planes can contribute toward a major airport development in lieu of paying state excise taxes on the purchase of the airplane.

"Since the money is going to be spent anyway, it makes sense for the corporation to be able to spend money on an airport in lieu of paying excise taxes," Miller said. "That makes a lot of sense, it helps the local airport sponsor, it helps the corporation and it helps the state."

It helps the state in that paperwork is reduced, Miller said.

"The last one we did, there was a sum total of two pages of paper that we had to turn in," he said.

The first such project in the state was in Bartlesville where Phillips 66 Co. …

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