Airport building purchase will allow replacement project to take off

DEXTER — The town council agreed to a $25,000 purchase and sales agreement with the Dexter Aero Club for its terminal building at the Dexter Regional Airport during a meeting on Oct. 13.

The transaction will enable a new 800-square-foot structure to replace the existing 50-year-old, 200-square-foot terminal building owned by the nine-member club as part of a grant-funded project for the new facility and reconstruction of the access road.

The Dexter Regional Airport was awarded $760,000 in federal funds over the summer to replace the current structure that does not meet the standards for a basic general aviation terminal building. It also does not meet federal ADA requirements or energy efficiency standards. 

The new terminal will enhance and meet all of these requirements.

In order for the project to proceed, the town of Dexter and Dexter Aero Club needed to come to an agreement for the group to move out of its building so the structure could be demolished to make way for the new terminal building.

The Dexter Aero Club rents space at its hangar, and would continue to do so at a to-be-built structure at the airport. The council agreed to a 10-year lease at $100 annual rate with the group for an airport site.

A sum of $25,000 was agreed upon for the purchase, with the council authorizing the transfer of this amount from an economic development reserve account to the airport property buildings account. 

Town Manager Trampas King said Dexter is responsible for 2.5 percent of the grant, approximately $19,000 if the proceedings start this year. Should a start be delayed until next year, then the municipal contribution doubles to 5 percent.

“We are saving some money by doing this early,” he said.

During the September council meeting King called the grant for a new terminal building and access road a great opportunity for the community. He said additional funds would be needed for the road work, such as other grant funds, as the total airport project costs would be near $1 million.

In other business, town officials had a discussion on broadband initiatives to improve access throughout the community.

King said Dexter is part of the dozen-plus member Maine Highlands Broadband Coalition, which was formed to deal with ongoing poor internet connectivity. The group is working to find funding services, and provider(s) to craft solutions to bring affordable and reliable internet to all residents and businesses in the area. Communities that join in will have stronger negotiating power with providers and a better chance at winning grants and other funding.

The town manager said Maine has received about $70 million in federal funds to distribute across the state to improve broadband access for unserved and underserved areas. Another $20 million is expected to be available next March.

He said discussions have been held with internet service providers and Premium Choice Broadband and Consolidated Communications are both agreeable to work together to connect Dexter — which is a plus for grant applications. 

“For me it’s a no-brainer — if you want to bring people in, you need broadband everywhere in town,” King said.

He said the price tag to connect all of Dexter would be about $2.2 million. The town manager said ARPA funds could be used to cover the municipal portion of any grant requirements.

“We need to invest in our town and that’s one of the best ways,” King said.

He said one idea is to use $184,000 in ARPA funds for broadband expansion — any decision on ARPA expenditures would be made by a town council vote.

“If the grant goes through then we would get it in 12-14 months,” King said about a broadband installation timeline.

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