The gathering was held at a specially called meeting Thursday, Sept. 26.
First, officials confirmed that a lease with the airport’s property owner needs to be in place for the county to get airport grants. Discussed was a 30-year lease, allowing TxDOT’s 20-year grant requirement to extend an additional 10 years.
The lease agreement between Refugio County and F.B. Rooke and Sons also had an option to buy the property, which the landowners said they were willing to do if a specific date could be added as well as assurances that indeed the property was going to be purchased by the county with airport grant funds to help.
Commissioner Gary Bourland said the county could begin now by saving $25,000 a year for matching grant funds at a later date.
For example, if the county saved $100,000, that amount could match airport grant funds of $1 million to purchase the land at some point.
Bourland said the $25,000 a year could be put into the lease agreement.
Another assurance would be for the airport committee and county. And that is an assurance from TxDOT that the county airport would get grants.
According to TxDOT officials, the best case scenario is a 90-10 percent matching grant, but the county would have to come in with its share of the funds (10 percent of whatever the grant would be).
TxDOT also has 50-50 matching funds for maintenance of airports.
Grant assurances was the second hurtle to overcome, and TxDOT officials said those assurances could be sent soon.
It was agreed that each of the party’s attorneys now could hammer out a lease with an option to buy date. After a lease is signed, grants could be worked on.
But TxDOT officials said they would like to see the airport pursue a bigger footprint and abide by modern Federal Aviation Administration standards.
Suggested was the ability for instrument flying as well as expanding the area of the airport to 150 acres from its current 126 acres.
Also, for safety, the officials recommended moving the airport road to circumvent the runways.
The bigger the footprint, the better chance for grants, according to the TxDOT officials.
And it was determined that having an airport is an economic development key.
TxDOT’s Scott Bryan, quoting Sam Walton’s philosophy, said Walton would never build in a town that didn’t have an airport.