Merced supervisors approve architect contract for renovating Castle hangars

02/04/2014 11:02 PM

02/04/2014 11:03 PM

The Merced County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a contract with an architectural firm for the renovation of two hangars at Castle Airport.

The contract with Mead & Hunt is budgeted for $255,738, according to county documents. A grant from the Federal Aviation Administration awarded in September will cover a portion of the project.

The contract before the board Tuesday covered the design of the hangar renovation, not the actual construction, but county officials are hopeful construction costs will be covered by future grants.

District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey said updating Castle’s aging hangars is an investment that will provide a positive return for Merced County by creating jobs and businesses at the base.

Kelsey said the FAA has been “very generous” in funding some of the improvements at Castle. The Atwater base is part of an FAA program designed to specifically fund projects at closed-down military bases like Castle.

“Since they closed so many of these bases around the same time in the mid-’90s, they created a special funding mechanism to be able to reuse closed bases,” Kelsey said. “It really is an enormous burden to a local community to take on the responsibility for reusing a closed federal air base.”

The hangars likely were built in the 1940s and ’50s, Kelsey said, and aren’t up to the modern standards necessary to support new business growth.

“The shining star at Castle really is the runway and the aircraft capabilities that we have, and to rehabilitate these antiquated hangars is a huge benefit,” Kelsey said. “We will be able to attract more businesses, and they don’t have to pay for the renovations themselves.”

Mark Hendrickson, director of community and economic development, said the project is 90 percent funded by the FAA, but the county has to match the grant with staff time and a cash contribution to cover the remaining amount.

“A few years ago, we got into the military airport program, which gives us different grants,” Hendrickson told Sun-Star this week. “What this is contemplating is the work to be done, and it will position us well for a future grant for the actual build-out, or construction.”

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