HAMILTON — The actual project is still a couple of years away but for the first time, Ravalli County commissioners are asking for the federal funding to start the long-planned upgrade to the airport outside Hamilton.
County commissioners were worried last spring that plans to extend the Ravalli County Airport runway were running into a snag, as negotiations to acquire additional land for the expansion weren't going well.
However, talks with the Mildenberger family were successful and now the county is applying for a $3.1 million grant to pay for the 160 acres which are central to the project.
"So that's a portion of the total project, and rough estimate probably maybe a quarter to a fifth of the total project cost," Ravalli County Commissioner Jeff Burrows explained.
Most importantly, that's a full 100% funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The county has already received FAA approval for up to $11.8 million for the upgrade, which would extend the airport runways.
That's seen as a boost for both economic development, and handling additional aircraft during fire seasons.
Burrows says the county may end up asking for more funding, but it's too soon to know.
"It may just be premature for us to do that at this point because we don't have engineering designs yet," Burrows said. "We were kind of guessing the project would be somewhere between $12-and-$15 million -- including the land acquisition."
Still, the grant application is a major step after 30-years of debate and discussion on how to upgrade the Ravalli County Airport.
While there's still a lot more work ahead, but Burrows says this is a big milestone.
"Get the land acquired this year, Next summer hopefully start like some geo-technical work and really get heavy into the engineering. And then hopefully a project by the summer of 2021."
Under the land deal, the county will own the adjacent land, but lease it back for agricultural use.