The Searcy Airport Commission was hoping last week to be awarded $1.1 million in “discretionary” funding from the Federal Aviation Administration in order to replace its taxiway lighting.
“As you all are aware there is discretionary revenue that sometimes if an airport doesn’t spend all of their money, they will reallocate that money to airports that want it,” Searcy Municipal Airport Manager Roger Pearson said. “We’ve made it known, as you all know, that we want it and we have asked for some time now, ‘Please, keep us in mind. Please keep us in mind.’”
Pearson said the coordinator of the funding has done a good job keeping the Searcy airport in mind, and he had hoped to know something about the $1.1 million by Thursday. However, as of Friday, nothing had been heard. (The coordinator said there was about a 50 percent chance that Searcy would receive it, Pearson said.)
The taxiway lighting was discussed as part of the airport’s five-year capital improvement plan, which, Pearson said, is done every year because “the FAA wants to know where we are at and what we are doing. They can help us make a plan.”
The airport commissioners were given a packet that showed taxiway lighting with an estimated cost of $1.7 million for 2023.
“I can’t tell you if that is too much or too little or not; that is the engineer’s estimate at what it would cost to replace our taxiway lighting,” Pearson said. “What I do know is that the city of Searcy cannot afford that and what I am grateful for is that we get $150,000 a year in entitlement money.”
He said the entitlement money could be spent every year or saved for more expensive projects. “We use it for our more expensive projects rather than using it every year,” he said. “In 2023, we’ll have banked $600,000 of entitlement money, but what you see when you take $600,000 from $1.7 million is you still got $1.1 million.”
He said although the potential funding from the FFA is “still people’s money, it’s tax money but it is not money out of the local coffers, it’s federal money.”
Referencing 2024 in the capital improvement plan, Pearson said that is when banking will start for the runway lighting, and that will be done through 2025 and 2026. Then, “hopefully by 2026, we can have had enough drainage projects and crack sealing projects that our subsurface will be in a good enough shape that we can start allocating for a rehab on our runway.”
Pearson said in 2024-2026, he knows prices will change but then the airport will move on to the runway, trying to get it upgraded to LED lighting also.
By 2027, it will be past time for asphalt on the runway, Pearson said. “So when we say runway rehab, we need the asphalt on the runway. That’s going to be another one of those projects that $600,000 will not cover because you are essentially doing 4 miles of regular roadway at 100 feet wide, so it’s expensive. So we will probably start this process of trying to get discretionary revenue all over again and trying to get that done.
Airport Commissioner Wiley Blansett said, “Those are all really good projects and projects that are needed for sure and a major upgrade. If you have seen the LED lighting at an airport, you know they look awesome. They show up really well, you can see them a long way off and it’s really worthwhile.”