CARES Funds Eyed For Airport Buy

SALISBURY – County officials are considering a $412,000 local match for the purchase of an airport fire and rescue truck.

On Tuesday, Airport Manager Tony Rudy met with the Wicomico County Council to discuss the reallocation of CARES Act funding for the purchase of an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) truck.

“One of the priorities we have at the airport is the firefighting equipment that we have,” Rudy told the council this week. “Our newest frontline truck is 15 years old now. These things generally have around a 10-year life span.”

Rudy noted the airport had applied for a Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) grant earlier this year to purchase a new ARFF truck. In July, the administration offered $315,000 toward the purchase, which requires a local match of $412,026.

“They need to be assured that we have local funds in place before they give us that grant offer,” he said. “September 30 is basically our deadline to tell them we have secured local funding for this project.”

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To that end, Rudy approached the council this week requesting a reallocation of $412,026 in CARES Act money to fund the purchase of the truck.

Earlier this year, the airport was awarded more than $18 million in federal grants for capital projects. Since that time, the airport has committed those funds to various development projects on its campus.

Rudy requested the $344,000 earmarked for a UAS hanger interior project, along with an additional $68,026 in operations and maintenance reimbursements, be used to cover the local cost of the ARFF truck.

Council Administrator Laura Hurley noted the county’s capital improvement plan and capital budget for fiscal year 2021, as well as the resolution accepting the CARES Act funding, would need to be amended at the next meeting to include the purchase.

“The next meeting is Sept. 15,” she said. “So we should be able to meet this deadline.”

Councilman Joe Holloway questioned how long it would take for the airport to acquire the new ARFF truck.

“It will take about a year to build,” Rudy replied. “So it will probably be September of next year.”

Rudy noted the airport’s main ARFF truck was aging and had broken down in recent years.

“It couldn’t be repaired in a timely manner, and we were lucky enough to get a donor vehicle from BWI to use while repairs were being done,” he said. “Since that time, we’ve gotten a more permanent backup vehicle that was donated from BWI. Both of these vehicles are very maintenance intensive, to the tune of somewhere around $60,000 in the last two years, just to make them reliable so we can respond to an incident if need be.”

Council President Larry Dodd questioned if airport personnel had the expertise to order an ARFF truck to the exact specifications. Rudy explained the airport followed FAA standards when ordering new ARFF trucks.

“They basically have a checklist depending on your size of airport and the amount of reagent you have to carry on the trucks,” he replied.

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.