Monday, February 29, 2016

El Paso County considers fixes, funding and future of Fabens Airport (E35)

EL PASO, Texas -

El Paso County is looking at state and federal funds that could be used to fix up the Fabens airport. Located in the lower valley, the dilapidated airport is about 7 miles away from another property the county has been working to develop, the Tornillo port of entry.

County commissioners are looking into if the county-owned airport could become a valuable asset to that area and the county as a whole, but heard Monday it needs a lot of work first.

The 400 acres the county owns just northeast of Fabens has four runways and one hangar, but hasn't had much maintenance in decades. The county has previously missed out on up to $150,000 a year in Federal Aviation Administration funding and even more from the state because there was no overall plan for maintenance.

Commissioners approved a list of 18 project priorities Monday the public works department can now look at lining up funding for, totaling more than $6 million dollars. But with limited federal and state funding available every year, it could take up to 10 years to get it all funded and done.

For example, on one year's $150,000 maximum FAA funding for rural airports, the county could fix cracks in the runway estimated to cost $12,650, install an electronic security gate at $45,948, and get new fuel tank up to modern standards for $86,365, with a 10 percent county match.

"We no longer want these facilities just to be dormant," said Vince Perez, county commissioner for Precinct 3 which includes the airport. "And I think there's a recognition from the court that they want to see more use out of this facility. And I think they see the potential for more use from this facility. So our first step is to get it up to shape to make sure that everything is up to standards, up to code."

The county is also working on an overall economic development plan which includes analyzing if the Fabens airport can have specific economic benefits to the county. If not, Perez said the county won't enact this plan and instead will look at other options including selling it off.

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