WHEATLAND - The Wheatland Town Council meeting had an exciting development at the last meeting. The work and effort of over a decade has finally been realized with the approval of the permits to start the Wheatland Airport Improvement Program.
Jeremy Gilb from T-O Engineers based in Cody, has been with the project from the beginning and has been instrumental in acquiring the funding needed for the improvements.
“The pavement is 30 plus years old and is deteriorating. The Town has tried to repair the potholes, but the uneven surface is not good for planes,” explained Gilb. “The airport is deficient in safety standards, runway width and grade. There needs to be more room in case something happens in an emergency.”
The Town was required to purchase more land around the airport in order to bring it up to code. That also involves moving the Carriage Lane road that serves residents further north as it is too close to the runway. In addition, water lines will need to be relocated for those homes.
The cost of the renovation will be steep, but with the help of federal and state grants, it is going forward. The Town received almost $1 million from the State of Wyoming and over $7 million in federal supplemental funding.
Almost $4 million is coming from a federal airport improvement fund earned through user fees. A portion of every plane ticket purchased in the country is allocated to this source.
In March of this year, President Trump signed H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The legislation granted an additional $1 billion towards the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program. It was stipulated, that rural and smaller airports be given priority in obtaining these extra funds for construction and improvement. Wheatland received $3 million from this program. With the extra funds, the airport will gain a new lighting system, and an eight foot game fence will be erected. Wheatland is one of 37 airports across the nation to receive this federal funding and the only one in Wyoming.
Arnie Minear and Dallas Mount are co-owners of a 1963 Piper Cherokee 180 aircraft purchased last summer in Virginia and then flown back to Wheatland. They are both very excited for the upcoming renovations.
“The Town could really use this opportunity to expand and monopolize on the economic advantages that more services could provide,” explained Minear. “A courtesy car for people to fly in here to have breakfast and do some shopping. Or if there was gas available, they could refuel on their way to other places.”
More economic development will happen during the expansive job with the influx of laborers and contractors that will be working and living here in town. Construction will begin the first of November and will continue as long as the weather permits. It will be picked back up in March and is slated to be complete by the end of July 2019. The runway is scheduled to be closed beginning in March 2019 and reopened sometime in July 2019 depending on weather and construction progress.
By next summer, the airport will be brought up to code, will allow for larger aircrafts, and will be beneficial in recreational flying as well as emergency services like Flight for Life and battling wildfires.
Airport Progress Updates will be available on the Town’s website, their Facebook page and flyers posted at the Airport and Town Hall.
An informational public meeting on the upcoming Airport construction project will be held at Town Hall on Monday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m.