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Airport's future plans take flight
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MONROE - Monroe Airport is in a Catch-22 situation.

The airport annually receives about $180,000 in state funding. The airport could qualify for more federal funding and twice as much state grant money if it could get a higher classification from the Federal Aviation Administration.

But to get a higher classification, the airport needs more planes based there. It has only one jet. It would need another jet or three turbo-prop engine planes based at the airport to step up a level.

To entice more owners and pilots to base their planes and jets out of Monroe, the City of Monroe Airport Board of Management is trying to improve the quality and look of the airport, and that means spending more money.

To raise more money, the Board is marketing hangar lots for $1 a year on a 20-year lease with options to renew. The city collects tax money on the improvements to the lots - which are the hangars built by the aircraft owners.

"More hangers mean more planes, more fuel sales and more airport use," Airport Manager Kelly Finkenbinder said.

Monroe Municipal Airport handles about 6,000 take-offs and landings a year. For many pilots and their passengers, the airport office is the first impression of Monroe and its airport.

The present office was built in the 1970s, according to Finkenbinder.

It hasn't been updated much since.

So the board shuffled its five-year plans around to move the new office design work from 2011 to 2009, and increased the estimated cost of construction from $200,000 to $300,000. Finkenbinder said the design work will cost over $25,000.

This year the terminal area, taxiways and entrance road will get a fresh coat of blacktop.

Plans for a $200,000 budget in 2009 include sealcoating the runways and moving the Automated Weather Observing System.

Tentative plans include an instrument landing system on runway 30 ($50,000) and designing a parallel taxiway ($1.5 million) in 2010; constructing the taxiway ($1 million) in 2011; purchasing land and constructing a detention pond ($250,000) in 2012; and repaving the runway ($1 million) and constructing a parameter fence ($375,000) in 2013.

Finkenbinder said costs on an airport's five-year statement of project intentions are often overestimated in hopes the government will try to appropriate enough money for the program.

But airports project costs are also based on costs from Wisconsin DOT Bureau of Aeronautics past projects in other communities.

"For the most part, project estimates have been reduced on the better estimates," Finkenbinder said. The $1 million runway repavement projected cost was dropped from its original $1.7 million estimate.

But he said the projects and their estimates will get juggled again.

That is because the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics has a Five-Year Airport Improvement Program for scheduling individual airport projects that are eligible for federal and state assistance.

The program changes from year to year because of fluctuating funding levels at federal, state and local levels of government.

Finkenbinder said it was based on "federal juggling, politics and necessities."

State statute requires airport owners to submit a Statement of Project Intentions to the Bureau by July 1 of each even-numbered year.

The Bureau uses these as an indication of future projects for which it can begin to plan.

Eligible airport development projects are then prioritized, using federal and state ranking systems to select specific projects for federal or state funding assistance.

The Bureau selects projects based on identified needs, revenue resources and constraints, and social, economic and environmental impacts. Projects with the highest priority will be included in the program for early consideration.

Still, the Bureau always has more funding requests than it can cover, so it does not guarantee funding. Because many airports are competing for limited funds, a legitimate project may be delayed in the program.

A petition process begins three to five years before construction is desired, depending on the complexity of the project.