June 24, 2008

Barnstable, Mass., Municipal Airport Expansion Gets Thumbs-Up

By Jake Berry, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

Jun. 21--HYANNIS -- After six months of idling on the runway, an expansion project at Barnstable Municipal Airport is now one step closer to takeoff.

The Barnstable Town Council voted Thursday, 12-1, to secure a $1.7 million design grant through the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission for a new airport terminal.

The council's vote ends a six-month standoff over the grant language.

The aeronautics commission first awarded the grant last December, but town officials did not sign it because of wording they believed put the town's authority over the airport in question. But after months of negotiation, the two sides agreed last week to language that will allow them to move forward on the new terminal.

"We're very happy that the issue ... has been resolved," Town Manager John Klimm said Thursday. "It's unfortunate that so much time has been spent on it. ... We're pleased to be moving forward."

The town's concerns revolved around wording that indicated a change in the airport charter could violate the terms of the grant, forcing the town to pay back the money, said Town Attorney Ruth Weil, who helped negotiate the new language. The original language also required that the town take out a mortgage on the airport to assure the grant.

The new wording, however, acknowledges the town's authority to change the airport charter and abandons the commission's mortgage request.

"We agreed that if the airport is no longer used for airport purposes, then the money would be paid back," Weil said. "We were pretty happy with that."

With the grant money now in place, the project architect can now resume work on the new $32 million terminal, planned to stand 32,000-35,000 square feet, airport manager Quincy "Doc" Mosby said.

The architect, Earth Tech, of Long Beach, Calif., had started on some preliminary design work, but had to abandon the project when the money wasn't in place. Now Earth Tech can return to work with hopes of completing design and permitting by next summer, Mosby said.

Construction would then start immediately after, and the project could be complete by fall 2010, he said.

"It's really unfortunate so much time has been lost," said Arthur Kimber, chairman of the town's airport commission. "We're anxious to get rolling."

Some others are not as eager to move forward.

Citing financial risks of the project, overcrowding and over-development of Barnstable, town councilor Gregory Milne was the only councilors who did not support the grant language.

"Where can we point to ... any sentiment that (town residents) have a desire to have a bigger airport at that location?" Milne asked Thursday.

"There is none. ... I do not support any expansion of the Barnstable Municipal Airport whatsoever."


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