Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Grant sought for East Coast air connection

Airport also seeks $2 million for construction project

Express Staff Writer

A federal grant sought by Fly Sun Valley Alliance could result in one-stop air service between Sun Valley and the East Coast.
    Small Community Air Service Development Program grants are administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2002, the program’s first year, one such grant provided $600,000 to kick off Horizon Air’s nonstop service between Sun Valley and Los Angeles. That service remains in operation during the peak winter and summer seasons with the help of minimum-revenue guarantees funded by Sun Valley Co. and Fly Sun Valley Alliance.
    During a meeting last week, the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority agreed to pay for 75 percent of the grant application’s cost of between $7,000 and $9,000. The application deadline for fiscal year 2013 grants is July 26.
    In an interview Friday, Fly Sun Valley Alliance Executive Director Carol Waller said the nonprofit organization had not yet decided on an amount of money to request, nor on which city to target for a connection to Sun Valley.
    “It could be Denver, it could be Minneapolis, it could be anything else,” she said. “We’re going to leave the grant open—we don’t have to specify [a city].”
    Information supplied by airport staff in the Airport Authority meeting packet states that a public/private partnership among the Airport Authority, Fly Sun Valley Alliance, Sun Valley Co. and an air carrier is “the most likely team that will evolve from this process.”
    According to the Department of Transportation’s website, the program has $11.5 million available for fiscal 2013. Waller said the program receives between 300 and 400 applications annually for between 30 and 40 grants.
    “The fact that a community has already received one or more grants will be a consideration when comparing its new proposal with those of other applicant communities,” the department’s website notes.
    During the Airport Authority meeting, Waller said Fly Sun Valley Alliance has been in “very deep negotiations” with Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Horizon Air, about service for this winter and next summer. She told Airport Authority members that she was not at liberty to provide details of the negotiations, but said, “I can tell you that we’ll have more days of service.” In an interview early this week, Waller said the negotiations were still ongoing.
    The airport is also applying for a $2.29 million federal Airport Improvement Grant to fund airport modifications scheduled for this fall. The work is part of a three-year, $25 million to $35 million construction project to meet federal airport safety requirements. The project will include hangar relocation and removal, construction of additional taxiways and expansion of the terminal. It will require a reduction in the airport’s parking area.
    The grant application, which airport Manager Rick Baird said Monday was to be sent out that day, will be for “entitlement funds”—money that the airport has contributed to the program through ticket sales and fuel taxes. Baird said obtaining that grant is practically assured.
    However, he said funding for the remainder of the project will depend on obtaining grants for “discretionary funds”—money obtained from the same sources but which is put into a nationwide pool and distributed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
    “This is a very high-priority project, so we should compete well for the discretionary funds as well,” he said.

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