2017-09-13 / Front Page

Board considers public vote for airport support

By Dee Menear Irregular Staff Writer

RANGELEY — The Board of Selectmen faced a packed room of residents at the Tuesday, Sept. 5 meeting. Discussion centered on an Environmental Assessment needed for a proposed runway expansion at Stephen A. Bean Municipal Airport and the need to put the project before voters to determine the town’s level of support.

During an Aug. 25 informational meeting, Guy Rouelle and Shane Mc- Dougall, both of DuBois & King, explained five project options which would impact abutting landowners in varying ways. The preferred options, they said would be to extend the runway

409’ to the southeast and 690’ to the northwest. This alternative would have significantly less impact on wetlands and all runway construction to the southeast would remain on airport property.

At last week’s meeting, Rouelle explained the goal was to complete full design and permitting for the proposed runway project between now and May 1, 2018. However, Rouelle stated the FAA required an Environmental Assessment on the full proposal rather than an assessment for a singular alternative. The assessment would cost $132,000 and would be good for five years.

The project is estimated to come in at around $10 million. Successful grant funding would mean the FAA would be responsible for 90 percent of the total cost. Maine Department of Transportation would pick up five percent and the remaining five percent would come from other agencies. Rouelle stated the goal was for Rangeley not to bear any cost for the project.

Rouelle stated what was needed was a vote to put the project on a ballot for townspeople to decide. “With the Environmental Assessment, our schedule works well for a November vote,” he said.

The engineer representative stated an affirmative vote to move forward with the project would lead to a meeting with FAA and a confirmation of project details such as runway length. “We can’t get FAA blessing without the support of townspeople,” he stated.

In order to put the issue on the November ballot, a decision by selectmen needed to be made that night, Town Manager Tim Pellerin stated. He said that this was to give him the time needed to research legalities and meet a strict state-mandated timeline for ballot preparations. Selectmen, however, opted to table making a decision on holding a public vote.

If the project is supported by townspeople, the design process will take place over the winter and the project would go out to bid in early spring. FAA grant funding would be announced in September 2018, stated Rouelle.

At last month’s informational meeting Rouelle stated initial assessments have not revealed any red flags but they did note any tree clearing would have to be done in the winter. If the grant was issued next fall, trees would be removed the next winter and construction would begin in 2019.

The Board of Selectmen meets the first and third Monday of each month. The next meeting will be held Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. in the Town Office. Meetings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged.

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