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Newport Selectboard votes to hold airport to FAA standards

  • Camron Menard, left, 12, of Newport N.H., and Ashley Cybruch, 12, of Croydon, N.H., shield their eyes when a Robinson R44 helicopter maneuvers on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, for the Aviation Career Education Academy at Parlin Field in Newport, N.H. Amelia Gelina, at right, 13, of Newport, N.H., records video while Timothy Fratzel, 12, of Newport, N.H., loses his hat. After watching the Robinson R44 helicopter, the members of the five-day aviation camp were able to ride in a Black Hawk MEDEVAC helicopter. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News File photograph

  • Students and adults at the Aviation Career Education Academy at Parlin Field in Newport, N.H., watch one of the New Hampshire Army National Guard's nine helicopters take off with others on August 11, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

    James M. Patterson">Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

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    At their town meeting on April 7, Newport voters will debate a petition article submitted by Dick Wentzell to sell Parlin Field, the town owned airport. The airport, with its 3,458 foot paved runway and 1,950 foot turf runway is staffed and maintained mostly by volunteers. Parlin Field co-manager Rick Kloeppel calls the nations large airports, roughly 45 of which carry 75 percent of the nations passengers and freight, the arteries of the air transport system. "The little airports like this one are the capillary system," he said of the 19,000 small airports in the country. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

    James M. Patterson

  • Sid Wallace, 17, of Grantham, N.H., returns his family's Cessna 172 to its hangar at Parlin Field Airport in Newport, N.H., on Friday, July 16, 2021. Wallace hopes to become either a corporate pilot or a commercial pilot, like his dad. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 8/18/2022 11:37:32 PM
Modified: 8/18/2022 11:34:26 PM

NEWPORT — The Selectboard voted, 5-0, this week to have the town manager pursue membership in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, which is a requirement if the town wants to access $2 million in federal money for capital improvements at the town-owned Parlin Field.

As a member of NPIAS, Parlin Field would become a Federal Aviation Administration airport, which would require all work done to meet FAA specifications, Selectboard Chairman Jeff Kessler said at Monday’s meeting.

The vote came after a lengthy discussion about Federal Aviation Administration standards and the needs of the airport, including repaving the 3,400-foot runway. Parlin Field co-manager Heath Marsden was staunchly opposed to becoming an FAA airport.

Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg told the Selectboard, in his opinion, there is no other option to secure the money needed for upgrades at the airport.

“As I have become more familiar with the airport and its present condition, it has become very clear to me that after many years, the capital demands of the airport are now far in excess of what the AIM (state Airport Improvement) program can fund properly and fully and certainly beyond that ability of the town of Newport to fund anything,” Rieseberg said.

“I think we are so far ahead of the cost to repair and maintain that airport, there is no way out (except to take the federal earmark and grants.) Every year that goes by, it gets worse and worse and worse. I keep looking for Plan B, but it does not exist. There is no viable alternative that will get us the kind of money we need.”

As an FAA airport, federal dollars would pay 90% and the state 5% of work done at Parlin, leaving the town with a 5% match, which Rieseberg said could be secured with airport revenues that include hangar leases.

Marsden joining NPIAS and becoming an FAA airport will raise the cost of projects and mean an end to events such as the annual car show or at the very least, make it very difficult to obtain permission.

“There are many pros to joining the FAA program; however, I can tell you it is a money pit,” Marsden said at Monday’s Selectboard meeting.

In one example, he said, volunteers at the airport did crack sealing on the runway for about $1,000, but under FAA requirements it would have cost $200,000.

Marsden said AIM would provide $250,000 a year for two years with a 20% town match required. The town could reapply for more money in subsequent years.

“That is what we see as a much more viable program,” Marsden said.

Rieseberg praised Marsden and others for their dedication and hard work maintaining and operating the airport and noted that, as an enterprise fund, it no longer requires tax dollars for support of operations. But he reiterated his strong belief that the airport’s needs are beyond the capabilities of a mostly volunteer group, and AIM money is not nearly enough

“You don’t have the time, ability or money to comply with FAA design standards,” Rieseberg said to Marsden. “You just don’t have it.”

Rieseberg also disputed Marsden’s statement that the runway could be repaved and repaired for around $500,000 as opposed to up to $2 million under FAA specifications.

“No question it will be more expensive with the FAA, but they pay 95%,” Rieseberg said.

Regarding events at Parlin Field, including car shows, fireworks and the Easter candy drop, Marsden again said the FAA would not allow them. He urged the board to call the Whitefield, N.H., airport and ask the manager about her experience with the FAA.

“They tried to do fireworks and other events and the paperwork, and the requirements of the FAA were extremely onerous. This is a dance with the devil if there ever was one,” Marsden said.

“There is no evidence whatsoever,” Rieseberg said in reply, citing three conversations he has had where FAA officials said they wanted those programs to continue. “The FAA and the state said car shows are fine. Candy drops are fine. There is no empirical data to suggest they are going to stop us from doing anything we have traditionally done.”

Unless the town obtains the federal money and completes the repairs, Rieseberg said sooner or later, the state will take action.

“At some point, the state will come and say, ‘OK, boys, it’s over. You have 60 or 70 days to pave this runway or close,’ ” Rieseberg warned, adding that Newport residents would never approve a bond request for the airport. “There is no way to save it without throwing it a lifeline.”

The nearly $2 million would come from a federal earmark, already approved by Congress, and two separate annual grant programs over the next several years, Kessler said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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