Oxford County on holding pattern with airport

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By Leslie H. Dixon

OXFORD — The future of the Oxford County Airport remains on a holding pattern until funds for a Master Plan are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, but aviation fuel is now being sold again at the facility.

GAS UP — Aviation fuel is now being sold at the Oxford County Regional Airport.
GAS UP — Aviation fuel is now being sold at the Oxford County Regional Airport.

On May 27, the county started selling fuel as a service for the planes that still fly in and out of the facility located off Route 26 in Oxford as it awaits word from the FAA on whether it will receive a $150,000 grant to update the Master Plan.

County Administrator Scott Cole said the retail price of aviation fuel is currently $4.71 a gallon, matching the price at the Auburn Regional Airport. Bethel and Fryeburg regional airports have lower gasoline prices so more decisions have to made about the pricing strategy.

“For now we are pursuing a ‘match Auburn’ price in a noncompetitive mode,” he said.

The 100 0ctane3 aviation fuel can be obtained in one of the 5,000 gallons tanks by simply inserting a credit card, Cole said.

“There’s traffic in and out of there but it’s a self-serve, unmanned facility,” said Cole.

“We’re not making money,” he added. “Ideally we would like to cover our costs.”

The 40,000-square-foot building has been unused and in disrepair since 2014 when the County Commissioners evicted its sole tenant, Oxford Aviation, for violations of it lease conditions. Oxford Aviation was an airplane refurbishing business housed at the site.

Since then, options have been explored for reviving business possibilities in that location. In March, an auction of the remaining contents emptied the building. The auction was held to satisfy claims of creditors following the previous tenant’s eviction and bankruptcy proceedings.

The facility costs the county about $100,000 a year at this point to run. Cole likened the facility to an Interstate.

“The airport is just another means of transportation,” he said.

“The building was built for aviation purposes,” Cole added. “The county is prohibited from using it for nonaviation purposes unless we get a sign off from the FAA. We’re not currently looking for sign off. We’re looking for the Master Plan to tell us [what direction to go].”

Aviation traffic is currently going in and out of the regional airport on a daily basis and a temporary “gentlemen’s agreement” between Oxford resident Ben Moscher – who holds an aviation mechanic license – has been made to allow Moscher to do some work at the airport in exchange for maintenance at the airport.

But things move slowly when it comes to the airport and at this point the county commissioners are dependent on the updating of the 13-year-old Master Plan to move forward, Cole said.

A private consultant was hired earlier this year by Oxford County to advise on a Master Plan to rehabilitate the airport facilities.

Every regional airport is required by FAA regulations to have an updated Master Plan every 10 years so this year, the county applied for a $150,000 grant – available annually to every regional airport – to update that plan.

“We’re in a holding pattern until we see what the FAA does,” said Cole.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net