Funds For Airport Upgrades Sought

SALISBURY – A request for additional funds to fix a deteriorating electrical system at the Salisbury airport this week highlighted the need for extensive capital improvements at the facility.

On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Council approved a request from Airport Manager Dawn Veatch to use $46,770 from contingency funds to repair electrical panel boxes in the basement of the old terminal building.

“It is very unsafe,” she said. “It is falling off the wall, there’s two-by-fours underneath the panels holding it up and there’s water behind the wall.”

Councilman Larry Dodd questioned how the airport passed annual inspections.

“I’ve been involved in fire and safety inspections for many years and looking at these pictures I’m wondering how it got in that condition,” he said. “If you are doing an annual inspection, that shouldn’t have passed.”

Veatch agreed.

“That’s a question I have, and I’m going to have that discussion,” she said. “This wasn’t on our inspection and they were there.”

While he acknowledged the electrical panels needed to be repaired, Councilman Marc Kilmer questioned why Veatch was requesting contingency funds.

“In this year’s budget we gave $200,000 to the airport,” he said. “I’m wondering why this is coming out of contingency.”

Veatch replied that she had run out of money.

“Basically, I’m down to $3,000 a week for the rest of the year,” she said. “I’ve had unexpected expenses this year.”

Veatch pointed to costly repairs, structural failures and aging infrastructure at the airport.

“Everything out there is old, everything out there breaks, and everything costs a lot of money,” she said.

Veatch added that she had underestimated costs in her current budget.

“This coming year what I put in my budget is more than four times as much as this year,” she said, “because of these kinds of things that have not been addressed over the years, continue to pop up on my radar, and I don’t have funding to pay for it.”

Veatch told the council the county would have to reinvest in the airport.

“This airport has not been taken care of and we need to get in and fix the infrastructure,” she said.

Dodd agreed.

“These problems did not happen overnight …,” he said. “I applaud you for addressing this because it has to be done.”

General Services Supervisor Pate Matthews said once the electrical panels are fixed, crews would begin to excavate and waterproof the building’s foundation.

“We put things off for so long, it’s finally catching up to us,” he said.

With no further discussion, the council voted 7-0 to approve the $46,770 appropriation.

The council on Tuesday also tabled a request from Veatch to authorize Sentinel Robotic Solutions LLC as a sole source vendor for the purchase of drone detection equipment for the airport.

“This equipment is already installed down at Wallops Island and that’s why we want to use this technology,” she said, “because it’s programmed into a majority of the drones that are coming up here to be tested.”

Councilman Joe Holloway, however, said he wanted more information from the Federal Aviation Administration on the drone detection technology and made a motion to table the resolution.

The council voted 4-3, with Council President John Cannon and Councilmen Bill McCain and Josh Hastings opposed, to table the resolution to the next council meeting.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.