The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced a supplemental appropriation of $485 million for 108 airports in 48 states, and Drake Field in Fayetteville will receive nearly $1.13 million of the money for terminal improvements.
“The robust economy is enabling more passengers to travel by air, so this administration is investing billions of dollars in America’s airports, which will address safer airport operations, fewer airport delays and greater ease of travel for air travelers,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
Summer Fallen, airport services manager for the Fayetteville airport, said receiving the grant money wasn’t a surprise, and the airport had been awaiting this money. “We were pleased to receive the funding ahead of the anticipated schedule,” she said.
The money will allow the airport to replace the existing chiller with a geothermal system, Fallen said. It also will allow for updates to the ducting within the terminal.
“The geothermal system will be substantially more energy-efficient than our current system, which will not only lower costs for the airport but support the city’s plan for being more sustainable,” Fallen said. “Our current system runs sporadically and has required an immense amount of maintenance over the past few years. This along with the duct issues inside the building made [the] need for the system replacement a priority.”
A timeline for the completion of the project has yet to be determined as the system will need to be designed and put out for bid. Before the city received notice of this grant money, it accepted a matching grant from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics to replace a failing boiler with a geothermal compatible option. Elite Building Solutions, with offices in Springdale and Fort Smith, completed the work to replace the boiler. Fayetteville City Council accepted the $43,730 state grant on Nov. 20, 2018.