By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A Havre resident is spearheading a volunteer-driven campaign to give the Havre City-County Airport a facelift.
Tom Rygg, a member of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, has created a Web site detailing a number of minor projects he believes will enhance the appearance of the airport. On Friday, Rygg's Web page was added as a link on the Web site of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce.
"The thing that intrigued me about the airport is there is a lot we can do without a lot of money," Rygg said. "There seems to be enough people interested that throughout the summer we ought to be able to make a difference without a lot of financial assistance."
The projects include things like painting the terminal building, repairing damaged fences, replacing faded signs and building new picnic tables. Rygg said he hopes to find volunteers to sponsor one or more projects and plans to use the Web site as a way to coordinate efforts.
"There's a lot of good ideas. They just need to be thought through, and we need to find the time and the people to do them," he said.
Many of the buildings at the airport are dated and in need of repair. Local officials have said the facility's limited operating budget has made maintenance and repair projects difficult. The airport - which is funded through tax dollars and some rental income - has an annual budget of about $66,000.
More than half of that goes toward insurance costs and debt repayment. After utility bills and wages for part-time airport manager Bill Arvin are factored in, about $2,000 is left over for parts, repairs and maintenance, said Havre City Clerk Lowell Swenson.
While that figure has proven sufficient to keep the airport open, it has been far short of paying for major renovations or equipment purchases. For instance, the terminal building - used by the region's only passenger air service, Big Sky Airlines - has a leaky roof and inefficient insulation. The airport's largest hangar, erected in 1939, has similar shortcomings.
During the last decade, the airport received two large federal aviation grants to repair its two runways, but has been ineligible for grant funding to repair or rebuild the terminal or hangars.
Rygg said he fears the dilapidated buildings and grounds could reflect negatively on the community.
"It dawned on me - we need a whole new terminal building and have no money to do it, but if we can find some labor, we can go out there and fix it up," Rygg said. "The purpose is not to criticize. The airport is what it is, but we can do better."
Havre Mayor Bob Rice agreed.
"If I was a new visitor to Havre, and I got off the airplane, I'd tell the pilot to keep the plane running because I wouldn't be there long," he said.
By clicking on the "Projects" icon at the chamber Web site, visitors can access the "Airport Terminal Facelift" page, which includes nine proposed beautification projects at the Havre City-County Airport.
The projects include revamping the weather station on the north lawn of the terminal building, donating or purchasing a bench to replace one that has seen better days, planting flowers, and installing new drapes in the terminal.
All of the projects are relatively minor and require only someone with a little experience and a desire to pitch in, Rygg said, citing one project to repair a chain-link fence.
"We're talking about labor - someone who understands chain- link fence and who's willing to do it," he said.
By clicking on the "I Can Help!" icon for each project, visitors to Rygg's Web site can e-mail him about how to help with each project. One - the flower-planting project, has already been adopted by a volunteer, and two of the sign-painting projects have already been finished by Arvin, Rygg said.
Rygg said he would also like to see a new sign installed on the south side of the terminal - the first Havre structure people see when they deplane.
"I'd like it to say 'Welcome to Havre' or 'Welcome home,'" he said. "Even something as simple as that can do a lot for people's attitude about a certain place."
The disrepair at the airport has been brought to the attention of Montana's congressional delegation, who've been asked to support an appropriation to build a new terminal.
"I know that all three members of the delegation have expressed their willingness to support it," Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp., said Tuesday. "All of their offices have this on their radar screen."
Rygg said he hopes the appropriations request is successful, and that the projects to beautify the existing terminal building will be well worth the effort even if the building is replaced.
"The people I've been talking to don't care if it gets torn down in a year because, for that year, it will be a whole lot nicer," he said.
On the Web:
Access the airport renovation Web page at www.havremt.com/chamber and click on the "Projects" icon, or go directly to the site at http://home.bresnan.net/~rygg.jackie/airport/airport.html.