Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission celebrates grant award

Airport commission meeting discusses grant, FAA inspection, and potential solar farm.

The next 20 years are mapped out for the Martha's Vineyard Airport. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission met last Thursday with good news on its agenda that included a grant totaling $8.3 million and a mostly positive inspection by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA construction grant, announced on July 13 by the office of Representative Bill Keating, “will fund the construction of approximately a 20,000-square-foot Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) building. “Construction of a new Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Building and the important safety upgrades that go along with that will allow first responders at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport to have the infrastructure that they need to be prepared for any emergency situation,” Congressman Keating said in a press release.

Airport commissioner Robert Rosenbaum and Airport Commission chairman Myron Garfinkle had worked to secure the grant over the past 11 months.

“It’s hard for me to say without smiling, ” Mr. Garfinkle said when he announced the grant to the commissioners.

The FAA has conducted several inspections, and the most recent, a land-use inspection on July 6 and 7, was another topic of discussion at the Thursday meeting. Mr. Garfinkle called the inspection an educational opportunity, and said that overall, the airport received an excellent review. However, the FAA took issue with two items related to lease arrangements.

The airport has two leases with zero revenue to the airport, which is not permitted by FAA regulations. In a phone conversation with The Times, airport manager Ann Crook said leases for the Dukes County Sheriff’s Department, which operates the communications center on airport property, and a bicycle motocross (BMX) track have expired. Ms. Crook said their paperwork has lapsed, and that the airport is “working to bring them into compliance.”

The second issue was the airport’s fair market values. According to Ms. Crook, these are appraised values of a piece of property based on the highest and best use of that property. The values have slipped at the airport, and the FAA said they must maintain them. Ms. Crook told The Times that all leases must be in compliance, which means changing the lease language to ensure they charge the fair market value for their property.

Also Thursday, airport commissioners discussed the airport’s “master plan,” which refers to the maintenance of runways, maximizing parking spaces, and the potential construction of a solar farm. Ms. Crook told The Times that the solar farm is an idea they’re still considering. She said that they’re looking at a property at the airport that isn’t needed for aeronautical development.

“We’re considering building a solar farm there as a way to provide for electrical use of the airport, or to partially offset the use of electricity in a way that’s sustainable,” Ms. Crook said.

Mr. Garfinkle said the Airport Commission plans to hold an upcoming public meeting about the airport’s potential solar farm.