Getting it done as quickly as possible appears to be the best hope for users of the Yuma Municipal Airport.
Aerial applicator business operators indicated at a public meeting last week that they had hoped to find a way to continue using the airport while the $4.5 million runway replacement project takes place this spring.
However, the Federal Aviation Administration officials made it clear the users' ideas were not viable. The FAA is providing 90-percent of the funding, with the State of Colorado and City of Yuma each paying 5 percent.
A similar meeting was held last spring, when it was thought the project would be done in 2015. Airport users expressed their concerns then that it would cripple their business, as well as impact crops needing attention.
FAA representatives said at that time that the Yuma runway was in such bad shape it was the No. 1 project on its list. They also said they were at the mercy of when the funds would be made available.
Turns out the money was not released until later last year. It was not done in the fall out of concerns early winter weather could stop the project, which would leave the airport closed through the winter.
Therefore, contractor McAtee Construction Co. of Sterling is scheduled to begin the replacement job on April 4, though there is some hope it might start earlier. McAtee has 105 days to get the job done, putting the completion date well into July — at the height of the aerial application season.
It was made clear last week that the FAA provides the funds when it does, and if it hears a community is not welcoming, it will give it to a community that does.
Airport users suggested possibly starting the project in the middle of August. They were told that projects starting later in the year run the risk of not getting completed prior to winter weather, then the airport is shut down for months (see above). They also were told runways done in the fall tend to have the seams open up again more quickly.
It was suggested the pilots could use the crosswind runway at the north end of the main runway. It was noted, though, the crosswind crosses the main runway. McAtee could start at the south end tearing up the runway, but it would add just five days to usage of the crosswind runway.
It was asked why crews did not start tearing out the runway last fall. The FAA representatives noted it would have shut down the airport all winter, as well.
Another suggestion was to allow pilots to use the asphalt runway that runs in front of the hangars. There were suggestions of extending it into the grass.
The FAA representatives said it was too late to consider such options. The users said they were willing to use an alternative strip such as the taxiway at their own liability, and do any improvements and extensions at their own cost. The FAA said the users should have made these suggestions last year, to which the users said they did bring up these issues at last year's meeting.
It was noted McAtee also might have some issues with the airport being used while they are working.
Joe Harper, who used to be mayor of Yuma and is resuming that role next month, said the parallel taxiway is a viable alternative. He suggested everyone take 30 minutes to go out to the airport to take a look and discuss it. Harper stressed that the airport is a key component of Yuma's economic viability.
Airport users said moving their operations to other airports, such as Wray or Akron, during the project is not feasible.
City Manager Sid Fleming said the city would have to ask its liability insurance carrier about the airport being used while the project is ongoing, adding the city probably would not have insurance coverage in such a situation.
One airport user asked if there was any chance for any of the suggested alternatives. There was no response, to which he said, “I guess that answers my question.”
He went on to say that the city administration and Armstrong Consultant did not listen to the users' concerns last year. “I think someone at that table should've paid attention and I'm sorry they didn't.”
It was noted that what is going to occur at the Yuma airport this year happens at two airports every year.
Users said the bottom line is they don't have hangars at other airports, so they have no choice but to be shutdown during the project. It was noted that if it could be completed earlier, it will not be as big of an issue.
Original article can be found here: http://www.yumapioneer.com