TxDOT to pay to keep 13 small airport towers open - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

TxDOT to pay to keep 13 small airport towers open

Last week, we learned as a result of sequestration, air traffic control towers at 149 small airports would be facing the chopping block.

But now, a little time has been bought and it's at the request of the governor's office.

In a letter to the Texas Transportation Commission, Governor Perry says "While President Obama has chosen to make sequestration as painful as possible I cannot with good conscience allow him to put his political agenda ahead of public safety."

So he's asked TxDOT to give a little financial assistance to help keep some of these towers stay open. But the question is…for how long?

Mark Cross with TxDOT says the governor asked them to help the towers here in our state.

"Well not only the governor but for us ourselves, safety is our number one priority and as well as…we're in charge of ground travel but air travel is pretty crucial as well. A lot of people move through the air and also commerce is pretty important and supported by these smaller airports. So there's several reasons that we need to get involved and do what we can to save these airports," Cross said.

Cross says they will present the plan to the Texas Transportation Commission, their governing board next Thursday.

Sarah Hinton, manager of the Georgetown Municipal Airport says the plan has been in the works for the past week.

"They're working on a grant. They'll award us a grant for 90 percent of the cost for the next 90 days. And so then the municipality or city or whoever runs your airport, you'll have to come up with the other 10 percent match internally. So right now we're looking at our options trying to find that 10 percent match," Hinton said.

Hinton says it will be up to the City of Georgetown to provide that other 10 percent.

Hinton says everybody at the airport is pretty happy about the funding but she still feels it's only a temporary solution.

"We're looking at this 90 days at a time. And so we're gonna get through this first 90 days and hopefully the federal government will step in and realize the situation and re-evaluate what they've done. And then you know…start the process of bringing us back into the federal program," Hinton said

But Cross says TxDOT isn't sure if their funding will be temporary. They estimate the cost to pay for all of the towers would be $7 million per year.

"We're definitely gonna provide some interim funding for them and then we'll have to determine at a later point whether or not we can do this on a long term basis or if it's needed on a long term basis," Cross said.

There will be lots of talk about the towers next week.

Sarah Hinton says there will be an airport stakeholders meeting on Tuesday and a special Georgetown City Council meeting next Friday to discuss that 10 percent. 

The Transportation Commission will meet next Thursday.

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