By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
The St. Joseph City Council recently passed an emergency ordinance to authorize major repairs to the runway at Rosecrans Memorial Airport.
Airport general manager Abraham Forney says getting the go-ahead to get this project started is a huge relief. He adds that these massive repairs are long overdue.
"Some of these bigger repairs, in some of these bigger emergencies, the runway completely failed," Forney said. "Obviously, it could be extremely dangerous. The small cracking and breaking up of the runway was obviously dangerous as well. But, these major (cracks) were terrible."
The runway at Rosecrans was first built in the 1940s. Since that time, there have been a number of expansions and minor repairs made to the more than 8,000-foot long strip.
"But, the last time they did a major repair on this runway was 1989," Forney said. "So, it's long overdue."
The design and construction of this project will total more than $42 million. The Air National Guard, whose 139th Airlift Wing uses the runway frequently, will pay for 70 percent of the project.
A federal grant from the FAA will cover the other 30 percent. The city of St. Joseph only has to pay for 10 percent of that FAA grant.
"Three percent total is all we have to pay locally for a $42 million runway project," Forney pointed out.
The deadline for the cooperative agreement with the city council was September 30 - the end of the federal fiscal year.
Now that council has approved that agreement, Rosecrans officials will send the paperwork to the Air National Guard bureau to be signed by the end of this month.
"The guard has agreed on the terms and the city has agreed on the terms," Forney said. "Now, it's just a matter of actually signing the document."
The runway project will take about two years to finish. The design concept will be finalized next summer, a bid will be up next fall and construction will begin shortly after that.
This runway project is one of several projects going on out at Rosecrans, as the 139th Airlift Wing continues to expand northward. The Air National Guard's new, $5.9 million communications building at Rosecrans just opened in late August.
The communication building project included a storm water drainage effort, which included a basin and culvert.
Other parts of their expansion plans include the C-130H flight simulator, which is currently being built. Another project in the plans is a new aircraft parking apron.
While this runway project is not officially part of the 139th Airwing's northward expansion, Forney said a new runway was certainly a priority for them.
"Because it's a city airport and a joint-used airport, (the runway) is not one of (The Airwing's) projects associated with them relocating their base to the northside," Forney said. "Because it's a city facility, and joint-use, they just help us in efforts to repair the runway."
These repair efforts, Forney says, will be welcomed warmly by those at the Air Base and others in the community who rely on using Rosecrans.
"Obviously without the runway, they (the Air Guard) wouldn't be able to complete their missions," Forney said. "So, this is huge for them to get this runway replaced, knowing we're going to have 20-plus years of longevity out of a new runway. Without a runway, you can't operate aircraft obviously. So, this is huge for them and for our community."
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