PARIS — The Oxford County Regional Airport has been awarded a $214,710 to install perimeter fencing to keep unauthorized persons and wandering wildlife from jeopardizing pilots and passengers who land at the unmanned facility.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine,) chairman of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, made the announcement that county airport, along with airports in Bangor, Belfast, Carrabassett Valley and Rangeley will share in a total award of $10,537,652 from the Department of Transportation (DOT) on July 25.
“The fence is a long-term project with the goal to surround the airport property with a fence for security, to keep animals off the runways, and to prevent people from driving vehicles or from walking on the runways. It is for their safety and the safety of pilots landing and taking off,” Interim County Administrator Tom Windsor told the Advertiser Democrat.
Winsor said the project is the third of four phases to complete the install a 4,360 foot long perimeter fence at the facility located on Number Six Road. The work would be concluded by summer of 2019.
The 2003 Master Plan Update and the Airport Layout Plan dated August 2, 2007 identified the airport perimeter fence as a multi-phase airport improvement project to be accomplished between 2010 and 2021.
Although the airport is currently unmanned and self serving, Winsor said aviation traffic goes in and out of the regional airport on a daily basis. The airport does not record landings and takeoff, but it is believed the average number of landings is five per day, he said.
Because of the possibility of wildlife accessing the runway and concerns that dirt bikes, all terrain vehicles and snowmobiles can access the runway, the project is particularly important to the facility’s safety and security not only to those in the planes, but those on the ground, he said.
“Ben Mosher (owner of Mosher Aviation and an airport tenant) tells me that he regularly sees deer on the runway,” he said.
Although there are gates that make it difficult to get a motor vehicle on the runway without authority, Winsor said there are still concerns that dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles could access the runways.
It is unknown how many near misses, if any, have occurred because of animals or other obstructions, he said.
“One thing to remember is that safety and security are a really big deal in the airport world and we are obligated to meet many federal regulations as a condition of receiving support from the Federal Aviation Administration and having an airport open to the public,” said Winsor.
The project will also involve an archaeology study, and wetland delineation.
The area is considered sensitive for North American archaeological sites and the Maine Historic Preservation Commission has requested a review.
A preliminary site review suggests the area might contain prehistoric archaeological sites dating back to 12,000 to 10,000 BC.
Winsor said the primary funding of this project is from the Federal government’s tax on aviation fuel.
“All approved airports in the county share this funding to help maintain and improved this public resource,” explained Winsor. “The application process along with construction design, bid review, and construction supervision is very complicated and specific to airports. So consultant engineering is almost universally necessary. Each year we attempt to complete one or more of these projects.”
Collins said in her announcement of the award that Maine airports promote economic and industrial development throughout the surrounding communities.
“These investments will allow the airports to make much needed improvements to their taxiways and runways, improving the safety and efficiency of operations,” she said.