Following authorization from the Hailey City Council and Blaine County commissioners last week, Friedman Memorial Airport has officially secured a CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) grant of $11.4 million.
The airport is still awaiting another $7 million in relief funding from the CARES Act Airport Program, airport Manager Chris Pomeroy said.
“I’m unsure of the FAA’s timing on the second grant offer at this time,” Pomeroy said.
Over 30 airports in Idaho have received or are expecting to receive CARES Act grants, the FAA reported on its website.
Funding appears to vary greatly—while the Nampa and McCall Municipal Airports were each allocated $30,000, the Friedman Memorial Airport was allocated over sixty times that sum. Magic Valley Regional Airport, which, according to FAA data, gets about half the traffic of Friedman Memorial’s 134,882 passengers, was allocated $1.2 million in stimulus cash. And the Boise Airport, which in 2017 saw over 3.5 million passengers, was allocated at $18.9 million, just around $500,000 more than Friedman Memorial.
According to the FAA, its funding formula is based on three markers—an airport’s enplanements, or number of boarding passengers, its ratio of reserve funding to debt and its level of debt service.
Friedman’s first grant—intended to help the airport offset its financial losses related to COVID-19—will cover up to three years of operational and maintenance costs, Pomeroy said. The second $7 million CARES grant would likely support capital improvement projects, including terminal renovation, remote air traffic control, pavement maintenance and approach-protection projects. That sum could also be used to purchase snow removal equipment or go toward parking lot reconstruction, Pomeroy said.
A runway pavement sensor system is one such purchase the airport could make. Such a project would involve installing temperature sensors at various points along the runway and using the data collected to conduct snow removal more efficiently.
“We would want to install this as soon as we can,” Pomeroy said in a previous Airport Authority board meeting.
One project that could benefit from the second wave of CARES funding is the airport’s parking lot improvement plan, now in its bidding phase. The parking lot project will entail installing new lights, building a concrete stairwell, adding large-vehicle and rental car spaces and relocating employee parking from the airport’s lower lot to an area west of the administrative office.
The Friedman Memorial Airport is still being considered to take part in a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic pilot program that would enable controllers to supervise takeoffs and landings remotely.
“We’re hoping to have full FAA approval sometime late this summer,” Pomeroy said.
SUN’s upcoming Terminal Area Plan, which hopes to address an expected increase in commercial airline activity, increase baggage claim and gate capacity and renovate aircraft parking areas, could also benefit from the second CARES grant. The plan was originally expected to begin in June, but COVID-19 could complicate that, Pomeroy said.