AZTEC — Approval of funding for municipal airport infrastructure repairs will be taken up at the city commission meeting tonight.
Commission members will consider approving the city's application for grant money through the N.M. Department of Transportation's aviation division for airport projects.
The two-runway airport, built in the 1950s, needs a new parking, maneuvering, and boarding area for the roughly 6,000 flights that take off and land there each year.
Located on the south side of the main runway, the paved land is riddled with alligatoring crumbling surface cracks that damages plane wheels.
Constructed in the early "70s, the 4 to 5 acre "terminal apron" - or ramp - portion of the airport was given a new lease on life in 1998 when a slurry seal was applied, using state and city funds.
But the seal has rapidly deteriorated, providing too many opportunities for the copious weeds and plants to shoot through.
"The ramp was laid down haphazardly without a lot of good engineering," said airport manager Mike Arnold. "Plus it's just gotten old. A re-do on all the drainage systems will be needed."
The entire ramp reconstruction project will cost a little more than $700,000. The first phase, the design portion, of the project will cost $150,000, using primarily federal funds.
But because of ongoing budget issues with the federal government, FAA money is not currently available.
"We're going to get ahead of the curve and put in the application now rather than waiting "till the FAA has the funding," Arnold said. "If we can get it designed this year then wait till the federal budget year 2014 to possibly go forward, that would be our best bet."
Arnold took over day-to-day operations at the airport in 1998 when the city struggled to find management. He handles insurance and most maintenance duties, including hangar upkeep and snow plowing.
Without any scheduled airline service, the airport sees only private aircraft, with nearly 20 planes stored in its modest handful of hangars.
Locals use the airport for trips of business and pleasure. The airport also generates tourism, especially in the warmer months, with chartered flights that bring in tourists to explore the region's cultural and outdoors destinations.
Roughly a dozen times a year, freight flights utilize Aztec's higher elevation runways when they are diverted by dense fog at the Farmington Airport. Aztec lies 300 feet higher than Farmington and has an identical runway design.
And City Manager Josh Ray would like to see more of that activity.
"The airport is extremely important, playing a role in recreation, economic development, and tourism," Ray said.
The opportunity to upgrade the aging infrastructure at the airport is essential, he said.
"We are fortunate to have such a quality small airport," he said.
The city commission meets tonight at 6 p.m. at City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.