The Grant County Regional Airport received more good news with the announcement it had been awarded a $10 million grant by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced $3.18 billion in Airport Improvement Program grants on June 24. A total of 358 grants were awarded to 327 airports in 46 states.

Airport Manager Haley Walker informed the Grant County Court of the news during its June 26 meeting. She told the Eagle the FAA funding is directed at projects described in the regional airport’s five-year capital improvement program.

The airport’s largest CIP item is to rehabilitate and widen runway 17-35 at a cost of $6 million, she said. A decision on how to use the $10 million will be made by the airport commission, she said. In May, the airport learned it was awarded $6.25 million to decouple its two runways and make takeoffs and landings safer. The court agreed to front the airport funding for design and environmental review to get that project started. The county will be reimbursed by the grant award, Walker said.

Work on apron repairs will take place sooner, but insufficient funding exists to complete all the work so it will be done in phases, Walker said. The first phase will address the north corporate apron, which provides parking and access to other aprons and the Forest Service SEAT base. That work will cost $1.3 million, she said. Work on the general aviation apron will take place at a later date, she said.

In other county court news:

• The court approved the sale of the Grant County Health Department building on East Main Street in John Day to Community Counseling Solutions for $400,000. The county will pay about $1,400 in closing costs.

• Fair Manager Mindy Winegar requested that repair work to the concrete floor of the Trowbridge Pavilion be addressed as soon as possible. The uplifted and cracked floor poses a serious tripping hazard, she said. The court had already agreed to remove the large cottonwood trees whose roots were the cause of the problem, she noted.

Grant County Judge Scott Myers advised Winegar that she could loosely word a request for bids if the cost of emergency work was under $150,000. He said the court would assist in finding a contractor who could grind down the raised portions of the concrete.

County Commissioner Jim Hamsher noted that some of the money from the sale of the Health Department building could be used to fix the pavilion, but Commissioner Sam Palmer asked if it was wise to spend large sums of money repairing the pavilion rather than erecting a new building.

• The court agreed to provide a quit claim deed to the Grant County Child Center for the Bright Beginnings daycare and preschool building near Humbolt Elementary School.

The county took ownership of the building about 20 years ago to help the nonprofit organization apply for a federal Community Development Block Grant, Myers explained. But that arrangement should have lasted no longer than 20 years, he said.

• The court approved a wildlife protection agreement with the federal Wildlife Services agency limited to $40,000.

• The court credited Kim Hilton of Hermann Financial in La Grande for helping the county negotiate a 2.84% increase in health insurance costs by MODA Health.

Myers noted that discussions had started with a 12% proposed increase in the annual contract. He said the plan’s provisions were the same and called the negotiated increase fair and reasonable.

• Grant County Emergency Management Coordinator Ted Williams presented the countywide emergency plan for annual review and approval. He said it was better for the court to approve the plan each year rather than every five years. The cities will be provided copies of the large document on flash drives rather than CDs, Williams said.

• Palmer’s duties as the county’s public health administrator will be handed over to CCS Executive Director Kimberly Lindsay effective July 1. She will be paid $500 per month to handle the state-mandated position. Palmer said he wanted to devote his time to other county issues.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at rick@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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