A runway extension at Frederick Municipal Airport is closer to getting off the ground now that the Federal Aviation Administration has approved a grant to reimburse the city for $3.8 million.
“This is more exciting news for the airport, we keep chipping away out there and are thrilled today to have received additional support from our county, state and federal partners,” Mayor Randy McClement said in a statement.
The money went to purchasing buildings on Bailes Lane in the path of the expansion. Securing that land was the first step in the overall project.
Frederick spent a total of $13.65 million to buy the properties, and the FAA has reimbursed $4.7 million as of Wednesday, according to Alderwoman Carol Krimm, airport liaison.
Krimm said she expected more to be reimbursed in the next fiscal year.
The city began acquiring the properties about a decade ago, according to former airport manager Charlie Abell.
He was the manager in 2008 when the airport planned to extend runway 5/23 about 300 feet to a total length of 6,000 feet.
“That is sort of the magic number for the type of aircraft that we would have at the airport ... 6,000 feet allows the aircraft to take on a full load of fuel and fly to a destination without stopping,” he said.
The FAA would not reimburse the city until it resolved "underperforming leases" with Maryland State Police and the Soaring Club at the airport, Krimm said.
State police reached a rental agreement that satisfied the FAA requirement, and the Soaring Club's lease expired last year, she said.
Frederick still needs to prepare the land before construction. There is no time frame yet for completing the expansion, said city planner Tim Davis, but work is likely to start in the spring.
Abell said that it had been a slow process, but the grant was a positive move.
“These things do take time," Abell said. "This has been a long time coming and I think it's a major step forward.”
McClement and several other city officials have said that the airport will be more attractive to businesses when it can handle larger aircraft.
"The airport is so critical for economic development," Krimm said.
She added that it would not only provide better transportation support for businesses, but would also benefit the city through increased fuel sales.
With better amenities, she said, businesses might decide to locate near the airport, which could set the stage for a mixed-use area where people could live close to shops and their jobs.
"I see that into the future," Krimm said.
Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.