Vale aims to use state grant to upgrade airport infrastructure

Vale City Manager Todd Fuller points out where key improvements can be made at the city airfield last week. The city recently learned it will receive a $100,000 grant to help fund improvements to the facility. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL).

VALE – A state grant will help improve the airport as part of a long-range plan to inject tourism dollars into the local economy.

The $100,000 will be used for asphalt work, including a project to pave the airport taxiway, said Vale Mayor Tom Vialpando.

“One of the things we’ve heard is people would fly in more if we didn’t have a gravel taxiway,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando said a gravel taxiway creates problems as pilots move off the runway and the prop wash kicks up dirt and rocks that can damage their planes.

“What we are looking at is trying to bolster our airport to get more people to come in,” said Vialpando.

The Vale airport has an asphalt strip just under a half mile long and a paved, 4,000-foot runway.

The airfield mostly caters to small planes, said City Manager Todd Fuller.

The city applied for the state grant in September and learned last week its application was approved.

Vialpando said he sees any upgrade at the airport to be an investment for taxpayers in terms of economic development.

“When other people fly in, we have a loaner car at the airport and they can get into that car and come into town. A lot of people use it and what it does is help our local businesses. They fly in and go have lunch,” he said.

The airfield also sits in a strategic spot for pilots, Vialpando noted.

“Our airport is one of the last spots before you get into the outback. Everything west is kind of considered the outback. A lot of people come in for hunting and fishing,” he said.

“We understand we won’t be able to entice 10 new businesses to come in but if we can entice 100 people over time, that helps out local businesses and expands our tourism,” said Vialpando.

Fuller said the airport attracts people from out of town on a regular basis.

“I had a call from a guy who was trying to get to our airport courtesy car because he was flying in to buy and sell cattle at Producers (Livestock Marketing). So, I know there are people coming in who are spending money in Vale,” said Fuller.

When the grant money will be spent is not yet known, said Fuller.

Vialpando said the project will be discussed at the airport committee meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at City Hall.

Vialpando said work probably will not start any time soon because federal infrastructure money is beginning to flow across the region, tying up contractors.

“With the price of materials right now, we need to kind of check and see how much we can get done with $100,000. I know we will be on a waiting list just to get the job started,” he said.

Fuller said the city also wants to expand the number of hangars at the airport.

“We have had multiple people interested in building hangars but we currently still need to do some engineering work and survey work. And, of course, that costs money too,” said Fuller.

Hangar leases, he said, will also bring in more money for the city.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] .

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