A recent federal grant will save Owatonna residents money and bring improvements to the local airport. Officials hope the updates will continue to encourage economic development and bring new businesses to the area.

The Owatonna Degner Regional Airport Commission last month formally accepted a Federal Aviation Administration grant it had been recently selected to receive. The commission approved the grant intended for the designing and engineering costs related to a new T-hangar with 10 units, taxi-lane and building design or phase one of the project.

“The grant was just for that phase of the project,” Airport Manager Dave Beaver said.

Aircraft storage space at the Owatonna Degner’s Regional Airport is hard to come by, but this project will provide more space in the future. Currently the airport has three hangars, each with 10 units, which individuals can rent to store their aircrafts in.

“We do have a number of people that are sort of on a list looking for hangar space, so that’s another reason why we are looking at designing and putting in another one,” Beaver said.

The $134,700 FAA grant will cover 100% of eligible design and engineering costs. There are no projected local costs for this phase of the project.

“It was anticipated the state share would have been 5% funding; however, under CARES Act Legislation, state and local funding are now anticipated to be covered 100% by FAA funding participation,” Beaver wrote to the city council board.

The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution that will accept a state companion grant — a Minnesota Department of Transportation Aeronautics Grant — to help facilitate reimbursement. The resolution is to go with the prior approved FAA grant. This companion grant does not include any additional funds, it's simply for formality. This allows the airport to use the state as its agent to reimburse the federal funds by working with the state’s aeronautics division.

“Every federal grant that we receive comes with a state companion grant,” Beaver said. “It's just a way for the project to be reimbursed, it’s a mechanism, the state works with the FAA to disburse funds. So in order for us to actually get the reimbursement for the federal funds that's already been accepted, this allows the mechanism to happen.”

Beaver says they are currently in the very beginning stages of the designing process for the taxi-lane and hangar. They are looking at design considerations, such as discussing what the best type of hangar doors to use, best options for snow and ice accumulation and types of electrical and lightning.

“We talked about those concerns and considerations, just initial discussion there at the last (commission) meeting, but we will probably dive deeper into it here coming into the next couple of months,” Beaver said.

He says they likely won’t be able to start the bidding process for a while, over the next year, adding that there is still time to look at all of the considerations. Phase two of the project, construction, is projected to begin 2021.

“The first thing we are trying to do is properly plan for aviation needs here,” Beaver said.

This means high functioning runways, taxi-lanes and storage for aircrafts that need to fly into Owatonna to do business.

“We also want to make sure that we have enough hangar space for aircrafts that need it and right now those hangars are full, so it’s appropriate to start looking at ways to expand that demand and provide the infrastructure needed for that,” Beaver said.

The airport’s mission is to positively impact the local community and economy, according to its mission statement. Beaver says the airport does, whether it’s by providing for business use of the airport, providing access to the community or the revenue the airport earns. It all contributes to how the airport supports the local economy, according to Beaver.

The federal funding is intended to improve airport safety and infrastructure, according to a FAA news release.

“This nearly $800 million federal investment in airport infrastructure will strengthen safety, improve travel, generate jobs and provide many economic benefits for local communities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao according to the release.

Reach reporter Ashley Rezachek at 507-444-2376. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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