MERRILL, WIS. – The City of Merrill, Wisconsin, the Merrill Airport Commission and Merrill Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony July 23 for the extensive ($4 million) improvements to the Merrill Municipal Airport. Invited guests, the media and some general public attended.
Planning for this project started in 2003 with a target date of 2006 for completion. The original start-up money came from an Earmark Grant from Congressman David Obey. After many delays caused by environmental issues, budget cuts from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the weather, the project finally got underway in 2011. That year the Merrill Airport put in the new fuel system (100LL and Jet A), did most of the excavation and paved from the present terminal area to the new fuel system.
In 2012, very little was accomplished because of delays in funding. In 2013, the “2006 Project” was finished and the main improvements to the airport are as follows:
(1) Parallel Taxiway for Runway 7/25: This improvement made the airport much safer. Aircraft can now get off the runway right after they land and do not have to back taxi while other aircraft are trying to land. Departing aircraft can also now be ready to taxi into position for takeoff without conflicting with other aircraft using the runway.
(2) A new aircraft-parking ramp: The new aircraft-parking ramp includes space for a new terminal building, a new fixed base operation (FBO) hangar, and the new fuel system.
(3) Development of a new hangar area: The Merrill Municipal Airport had no more space to build new hangars on the airport without this new area. The airport now has room for two large corporate hangars and six private hangars, and space for an airport-owned t-hangar, which can store eight aircraft. Also included was the infrastructure work for another area that can hold two more corporate hangars and 16 private hangars.
(4) New AvGas (100LL) and Jet A fuel storage tanks: The storage tank for avgas was over 30 years old and needed many upgrades to comply with new regulations. The airport commission realized to spend that kind of money on a 30-year-old system was not wise. The Merrill Municipal Airport also had no Jet A storage and no space at the old terminal to legally install one. The airport now has new state-of-the-art avgas and Jet A storage tanks in the new area. These new tanks are fiberglass and include the latest technology leak detection systems available. This fuel system will serve the Merrill Airport for the next 40 years. Also installed was a self-serve credit card system that makes fueling very convenient for all users of the airport.
(5) A new vehicle parking area: A new car parking area for the future terminal building and other hangars and buildings that will go up in the area.
(6) New Utilities: Sewer and water, electrical and gas were brought into the new area for all future construction.
(7) Fencing and Gates: New fencing and gates were put in for security and access to the new area.
This project was funded with the vast majority of the money coming from the FAA, some funding from the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics (BOA), and some from the City of Merrill. The split on some of the project was 95% FAA, 2.5% BOA and 2.5% from the city. This last portion in 2013 was 90% FAA, 5% BOA and 5% city.
Although tax dollars were used for some of the city’s share, a good portion came from another source. A large amount of crushed rock that the City of Merrill Street Department had collected and stored on the airport for years was used for the base for the taxiways and ramps. The city was reimbursed for this and that money was used for the city’s share of the 2013 portion of this project. That $70,000 produced $1.6 million of FAA and BOA money that was used to complete this project.
Also dirt was moved from one portion of the airport to other areas for the project where fill was needed. By not having to buy fill and trucking it to the airport, the cost of the project was lowered, allowing the airport commission to get more done with the FAA and BOA money.
Over the last few years over $4 million worth of improvements were done to Merrill Municipal Airport. With these and other improvements done from 2003 to 2006 (lengthening Runway 7/25 to 5,100 feet, resurfacing original portions of Runway 7/25, fencing the entire airport, bringing sewer and water to the present airport area, and re-surfacing ramp areas and taxiways), Merrill Municipal Airport has taken giant steps to be ready to serve the City of Merrill and to help with the city’s economic growth over the next 30 years and beyond.