Sylacauga airport in the final states of $1 M projects

Construction at Lee Merkel Field Airport in Sylacauga a decade ago expanded the apron, allowing for larger aircraft to use the facility. FAA grants paid for nearly all costs of the project. U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Doug Jones announced last week the airport will receive an FFA grant of nearly $2 million for its latest improvement project. 

SYLACAUGA -- Both of Alabama’s U.S. senators put out press releases last week announcing $25.9 million in grants for infrastructure improvements at state airports, including nearly $2 million for the airport in Sylacauga and $150,000 for Talladega.

Merkel Field Sylacauga Municipal Airport was awarded $1,948.542 in grant funding for its ongoing improvement project.

“The funds will be used for runway overlay paving of new asphalt to help strengthen and rehabilitate it,” said Tommy Dobson, Sylacauga Airport Authority chairman. “Funds will also be used to replace our taxi lightning system, which is extremely old, with a new LED system.”

Dobson noted construction is scheduled to begin in September.

“Our goal is to have the work completed by October, but it may take until November or December,” he said. “Hopefully, we will have good weather and won’t have to close the runway longer than is absolutely necessary.”

Last month, the Sylacauga City Council approved a contract with an engineering firm to begin work on the estimated $2.1 million airport improvement project.

The council authorized a compensation budget contract with Barge Design Solutions Inc. for $157,014 for project development, design, bidding, construction and other services for the project.

In addition to the $1.9 million FAA grant, funds for the project include $105,000 from the city, with some other funding from the Airport Authority.

Talladega County Airport Board Chairman Ray Miller said his panel was glad for the funding but was still hopeful more would be forthcoming later during the summer.

“The $150,000 is what we were already approved for,” he said. “That’s basically our annual funding. That money is going to be used to rehabilitate the taxiways at the airport.”

The additional funding would likely be announced sometime next month, he said.

“We feel good about it. We’ve done our homework,” Miller said. “We’re hoping the additional funds can be used to continue work on the taxiways and start work on rehabilitating our runways.”

Said U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, in a release, “Well-maintained and accessible airports are critical to our state’s continued economic growth, and they are key to helping our communities expand and thrive.

“This $25.9 million round in grants is great news for communities all around the state of Alabama that will put these dollars to work to improve their local airport’s infrastructure and safety.”

Said U.S. Sen. Richard Sehlby, in a release, “The (Federal Aviation Administration) grants awarded to these local airports across Alabama support key projects that aim to improve safety, security and efficiency.

“Airport infrastructure impacts overall economic success, and as a result of this funding, 20 of Alabama’s airports will receive the upgrades and advances needed to continue serving communities and driving development.”

The largest of the grants, worth over $10 million, went to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International to acquire aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles and for construction of an aircraft rescue and firefighting building. Birmingham will receive a separate grant of just over $1 million for an environmental study. The airport in Anniston is getting $150,000 for “miscellaneous study.”

-- Former Home staff writer Denise Sinclair contributed to this story.