An apron enhancement project that was funded by a Federal Aviation Administration grant of $326,625 is nearing completion at Pine Bluff’s Grider Field Airport.

An apron enhancement project that was funded by a Federal Aviation Administration grant of $326,625 is nearing completion at Pine Bluff’s Grider Field Airport.

The FAA grant for the apron — the part of airport where planes can be parked and loaded or unloaded — was made possible when the Pine Bluff City Council appropriated $32,666 last year as a 10-percent match to be reimbursed by the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics.

The city’s aviation commission was told by Airport Manager Doug Hale in a Thursday-morning meeting that the effort will be finished after a couple of minor adjustments by project contractor Redstone.

The work is the first of two segments in a two-year infrastructure improvements undertaking that includes construction of a phased access road around the airport, on which the city agreed to provide up to $10,000 in a 90/10 matching ADA grant, with ADA supplying the remainder of an amount not to exceed $99,102.75.

Project adviser James "Mitch" Rose of the McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. firm of Little Rock said Thursday that the airport would have to come up with an additional $22,443.98 to finalize the project with contractor-installed asphalt. Hale said he would be asking city leaders to determine if the city street department could lay the 242 tons of asphalt necessary to give the roadway a 2-inch thick coating.

The city would be reimbursed on labor costs.

Commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with the awarding of the roadway project contract to Graves and Associates of Pine Bluff. The base bid was a conditional $116,557.

Hale said previously that the current roadway might be considered hazardous because of its state of disrepair. Hale said he was especially worried when fuel trucks use the roadway. Hale said the road hasn’t been updated since World War II when the future airport grounds were the site of the Pine Bluff School of Aviation, which trained Army Air Corps pilots.

When seeking the city’s matching funds on the roadway grant, Hale told the council that the airport was in dire need of a quality emergency access road. He said the current passageway is too narrow in some spots for a firetruck.

"That’s not good enough if we expect the airport to continue growing and helping to produce more revenue for the city and county," said Hale, who on Thursday said the new roadway would have a 12-foot width.

In other business during Thursday’s meeting, Hale said the airport recently obtained a 1999 International 3,500-gallon fuel truck at no cost through the federal Government Services Agency excess program. Hale said the truck needs painting and a few mechanical upgrades but is otherwise in excellent condition. Hale said the truck’s estimated value is $80,000.

Commissioners stated their approval of the acquisition.

Architect Greg Pumphrey of Pumphrey Architecture in Hensley outlined plans for a proposed restroom earmarked for location on the west end of the airport’s runway. Pumphrey estimated the facility would be 200 to 250 square feet at a cost of $35,000 to $45,000 for a two-stall structure.

Several commissioners, however, questioned the need for more than a single stall. After some discussion, it was decided that the issue would be put before a subcommittee that would consider the expense and perhaps review a cost package containing assorted features. The subcommittee would then make a recommendation to the full commission.

Funding for the restroom development is to come from a Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District grant.

In a pair of unanimous decisions, the commission extended a hay collection contract for the airport grounds to Joe Scott at a fee of $300 and authorized a hangar lease share by Rick Kindrick with Commissioner Mike Sizemore.

Sizemore abstained from voting on the lease arrangement.