Turners Falls Municipal Airport to request Town Meeting support in expansion

Staff Writer
Published: 12/27/2020 3:13:07 PM

MONTAGUE — The Turners Falls Municipal Airport, as part of a planned expansion, plans to request a $45,000 short-term loan from the town. The loan requires Town Meeting approval and is likely to appear on a meeting warrant sometime this winter.

The airport’s expansion would involve the purchase of a 10-acre lot next to the runway, which includes buildings currently used for aircraft maintenance and storage, flight school and fuel sales.

By purchasing the land, Airport Manager Bryan Camden has said, the airport should be able to reach total financial independence from the town. He has also said that, if the land were sold to someone else and repurposed for some non-aviation use, it would jeopardize the long-term viability of the airport.

“It’s kind of a do-or-die to purchase this property,” Camden said.

The total purchase is expected to be $1.5 million at the very most, but 95 percent of the price would be covered by grants for public airports from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

The last 5 percent would be covered by the airport with support through a loan from the town, which Camden said will likely be about $45,000.

The cash from the town would allow the airport to increase its budget for the current fiscal year, so that it can support operations at the property it plans to purchase during the period before the new property starts producing revenue.

Repaying the money to the town should be possible by August or September of 2021, Camden said.

“It wouldn’t be a one-way transfer. It would be a simple short-term borrowing,” he clarified.

This expansion has been in discussion between Camden and the Selectboard for months. Last week, Camden and the Airport Commission met with the Selectboard and Finance Committee to discuss the airport’s expectations for Town Meeting, and to begin considering methods for financing the loan.

The committees will likely continue to consider options into January, said Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz.

Articles related to the purchase are very likely to appear on a Special Town Meeting warrant this winter, as the Selectboard and Town Administrator Steve Ellis have discussed. Because of the pandemic, Montague is weighing options for holding Town Meeting remotely, via an online platform. (Special state legal provisions allow representative Town Meetings to meet remotely during the pandemic.) However, a date hasn’t been discussed yet.

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.


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