$66,000 grant sought for airpark runway design

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 June 18 to authorize three grant applications to the Federal Aviation Administration and the State Division of Aeronautics, including one for design of runway safety improvements at Fallbrook Community Airpark.

“This is a typical authority granted by the board for applying and accepting federal and state funding for qualified projects that have been approved by the Board of Supervisors,” said County Airports director Pete Drinkwater.

The FAA sets aside entitlement grants each year for qualifying airports. The county’s general aviation airports, including Fallbrook Community Airpark, are each entitled to $150,000 annually; much of that money is used for repair and major maintenance. The FAA in conjunction with the State Division of Aeronautics also has a discretionary grant program. The FAA’s Airport Improvement Program provides grants which fund up to 90 percent of qualified airport improvement projects. Although the grants are competitive, the FAA allocates a certain amount for each class of airports in each FAA region. The State Division of Aeronautics has a California Aid to Airports Program which offers grants of up to 5 percent of the FAA award when the state budget allows; since 5 percent of 90 percent is 4.5 percent the county would only be responsible for 5.5 percent of a project’s cost if full federal and state grant money is awarded. The county’s contributions are provided through the Airport Enterprise Fund derived from rent collected from businesses leasing land.

From time to time grant funds become available toward the end of the federal and state fiscal years when airports in the region are unable to complete projects. The grant applications authorized June 18 seek money from that funding source, so their success will depend on the amount available from that source as well as the competitiveness of the County Airports projects.

The grant application for Fallbrook Community Airpark requests $650,000. “This would be for the design phase,” Drinkwater said. “This is just to get the design done.”

According to the county’s Airport Capital Improvement Program, the design work is scheduled for 2015 should the grant be approved. The construction itself, which has a $6,000,000 cost estimate, is scheduled for 2017.

“We don’t have a design yet. The design has to be finished first,” Drinkwater said. “You can’t apply for a grant to construct something if you don’t have a design completed.”

The plans for the Fallbrook Community Airpark runway improvements include moving the runway 240 feet south, which will create safety areas at both ends of the runway. The project will also provide the foundation for the airport to comply with current air field design standards.

The other two grant requests are for the former Cajon Speedway site at Gillespie Field in El Cajon; a $10,430,000 grant would cover construction while an additional $200,000 award would allow for environmental mitigation.

If any of the grants the county seeks are awarded, the Board of Supervisors will approve the advertisement for bid and award of a construction contract at the appropriate time.

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