Airport commission pursues grants

Capital improvement plan modified; McFarland Johnson chosen as a consultant.

Martha's Vineyard Airport commission chair Bob Rosenbaum detailed an exchange with Sen. Julian Cyr over federal relief funds during Tuesday's Zoom.

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission is pursuing funding it was denied. During the Wednesday Zoom meeting, airport commission chair Bob Rosenbaum said the Massachusetts State Senate was going to allocate a total of around $3.7 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding throughout the state. Rosenbaum said he sent a letter requesting ARPA funding on Friday, Nov. 5, to State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro. 

“We put in a request of $6.7 million, and I just want to emphasize here that the money we are looking for is not for the benefit of the airport. It is specifically for the benefit of all of the tenants in the business park, because based on the FAA’s [Federal Aviation Administration] revenue diversion policy, any services we provide to nonaviation entities, we have to get reimbursed for that,” Rosenbaum said. 

Some 80 percent of the airport’s wastewater facilities usage goes to nonaviation purposes, while only 20 percent are used for aviation purposes, according to Rosenbaum. 

“We need to recover. Every dollar we get in terms of grants and so forth lessens that burden … we are very actively attempting to pursue every opportunity to get funding to alleviate that burden. We have also done that with the county’s money as well,” Rosenbaum said. The need to recover the money comes from the FAA regulations prohibiting revenue diversion from aviation purposes. Without proper funding, the airport would need to bill the businesses in the park. Rosenbaum said the usage of the wastewater facilities from the businesses costs around $280,000 annually. 

The airport also started gathering funds in August to renovate the wastewater facilities.

However, Cyr sent an e-mail on Saturday saying the deadline was Friday afternoon. He wrote that he didn’t see the request until after the deadline had passed, therefore he couldn’t file the amendment. Cyr wrote that these requests need to be submitted “well in advance of the amendment deadline.”

“All is not lost, however. We will have another bite at the ARPA apple, as we are only taking up about half of allocated dollars now … I would also like to note I received a rather similar request for sewer infrastructure from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Perhaps there can be some synergy here,” Cyr wrote in the email. Cyr suggested the airport commission meet with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and representatives from the hospital. He also suggested the commission keep an eye on the Cape & Islands Water Fund. 

Rosenbaum responded with an email pointing out the commission’s request was sent on Friday at 1:40 pm, when the deadline was at 5 pm because of delays the state Senate had faced. 

“If such requests need to be submitted ‘well in advance of the amendment deadline,’ then what is the purpose of stating such a time?” Rosenbaum said he wrote in the email. 

In the same email, Rosenbaum pointed out how working with the hospital’s planned annex in Edgartown is not a solution to their problem. “It is impractical to merge the hospital’s project with the airport’s due to the absence of any common infrastructure, sewer lines, cost of installing and such, seven-mile distance, the project flows from the hospital that exceed the airport’s facility, and timing of the projects,” Rosenbaum said he wrote in the email.

Rosenbaum said whether the airport will be able to access the first round of ARPA funds is “very much up in the air.” 

David Dineen from Gale Associates said the Senate had been holding on to half of the ARPA funds to see what would happen to the infrastructure bill that Biden signed this week. 

“I recommend you reach out to your congressman and send the same letter to him for possible funding with this new infrastructure deal on the federal level, and see if you can have any possibilities of getting any funding on that level as well,” Dineen said. “Going back to the state issue, they still have almost $3 billion that they have to spend. I would remind the senator that there is more money in this pot that there’s going to be at some point using, and I would remind him the importance of the Vineyard and the work you are trying to accomplish for the users of the airport.”

In other business, the commission unanimously approved the airport finance subcommittee’s modified Capital Improvement Plan 2022–30. According to airport commission treasurer Richard Knabel, the plan was modified at the request of the FAA to move up beginning work on a short runway. Knabel said the plan lists anticipated projects that might happen between 2022 and 2030, not actually planned projects. Knabel said the commission needs to have them on paper if the airport is expecting money from the FAA. 

Meanwhile, the commission unanimously approved the annual forecast of anticipated revenue and expenditures for Dukes County’s budgeting purposes. Knabel said the airport anticipates $8,429,000 in revenue and $7,826,350 in total expenses, giving the airport a surplus of $602,650. 

The airport recently made a request for qualifications for on-call engineering, planning, consulting, and architectural services for various projects, including those listed in the capital improvement plan. Airport director Geoff Freeman said three companies responded to the request, and were reviewed by the selection committee. Freeman recommended the construction company McFarland Johnson for these services. Freeman said the airport can use another company, or send out another request for qualifications, for different projects if needed. Rosenbaum said the airport is not locked into one consultant, so there is room for flexibility. The commission unanimously approved choosing McFarland Johnson. 

Meanwhile, Freeman was selected to join the Massachusetts Airport Management Association board of directors. He was notified of this decision in October during the association’s annual conference in Fitchburg.