Federal funds to cover Jefferson City airport control tower operations

Planes sit idle Tuesday, April 14, 2020, on the grounds of the Jefferson City Memorial Airport.
Planes sit idle Tuesday, April 14, 2020, on the grounds of the Jefferson City Memorial Airport.

Jefferson City Memorial Airport may be eligible to receive a federal subsidy to fully cover the operating costs of the airport's control tower.

Since 2001, the airport's control tower has been part of the Federal Aviation Administration's Contract Tower Program, meaning the FAA operates and staffs the control tower, not the city.

Jefferson City currently is required to pay 18 percent of the program costs as the local share. The most recent price from Midwest ACT Services, the FAA contractor that provides air traffic control services, put the amount at $90,708.

However, 50 percent of that amount is covered by a grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation, through the Aviation Trust Fund, said Britt Smith, operations division director for the Jefferson City Public Works Department.

So the city share, after the grant is factored in, is about $45,354 per year.

Once this change went into effect, the FAA would cover the full cost of operations.

The news was announced in a news release last Friday from U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt's office.

Smith said Jefferson City has been informed of the change by Blunt's office but is waiting for official notice from the FAA.

An airport's local share is calculated using a benefit cost ratio - cost of operating the tower versus the benefit it provides, Smith said.

"Now we had reached a threshold where the cost benefit put us in a position to be 1oo percent funded," Smith said.

The FAA recalculates the BC ratio of air traffic control towers in the cost-share program on an annual basis.

Once an airport's tower is fully funded by the program, a new BC analysis will be done only if traffic at the airport drops by 25 percent in one year or 55 percent over three years.

"This announcement is great news for the airport and for Jefferson City," Blunt said in his news release. "I hope that by eliminating the local cost share for the contract tower program, the city will be able to dedicate resources toward other critical needs."

In the same news release, Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said the city looks forward to continuing to improve the Jefferson City Memorial Airport.

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