Nebraska airports shouldn’t fear the absorption of the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads.
In fact, the head of aeronautics in Nebraska says they should welcome it.
Department of Aeronautics Director Ronnie Mitchell assures Nebraskans the department won’t get lost in the bigger Department of Transportation.
“I don’t think anyone involved with airports or airplanes will notice any change,” Mitchell tells reporters during a news conference on LB 339. “We’re still going to be doing the same things that we’ve been doing; supporting our airports in this state.”
LB 339 sailed through the legislature this year, receiving 47 votes. There was no opposition. Two senators abstained from voting.
Officials within the Department of Aeronautics anticipated the support and began working with their counterparts in the Department of Roads months ago to make what Mitchell calls a “seamless transition” into the Department of Transition.
Mitchell says there is more work to do, but that his department is moving forward with great momentum.
Nebraska has 80 public-use airports with rural airports facing increasing challenges.
“Our rural airports are located with small communities. These small communities frequently don’t have enough money to meet the federal match for airport improvement projects,” according to Mitchell.
Most federal aviation grants require a 10% match, which isn’t a burden for bigger airports, but can add up to more than a small community can afford. Mitchell says a typical runway overhaul can cost a million dollars or more, forcing rural communities to come up with at least $100,000. Mitchell hopes the savings from the merger could be used to provide some of that required local match.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]