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April 04. 2013 10:09PM

Nashua airport will assume cost to keep control tower open

NASHUA - The Airport Authority at the Nashua Municipal Airport announced Thursday that it will not let the airport's control tower close Sunday night as scheduled due to sequestration cuts, as the Authority has reached a deal to pick up the tab to keep it open.

At a cost of $34,000 a month, Davidson said the airport has reached an agreement with Midwest Air Traffic Control Services, the company contracted to run the tower, to keep the tower open and its seven air traffic controllers employed on a month-to-month basis.

"We're taking it out of our reserve funds for future improvements. We think this is a crisis; we can't let the tower close," Airport Authority Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Davidson said.

Despite clearly being relieved that the tower won't close this weekend, Davidson said it is not a long-term fix, as the Authority can only guarantee funding for the tower for another month.

However, during the next 30 days Davidson said the Authority would exhaust every avenue available to them to try to keep the tower open. Davidson said the Authority only has to find a way to keep the tower open for another five months, because he is optimistic federal funding for the tower will kick back in.

Davidson said the Authority has planned for weeks to pay for the tower to stay open but didn't want to publicize that fact and jeopardize discussions with the Federal Aviation Administration about a reprieve.

Now that it is clear the FAA is going to hold fast to its pledge to close more than a 100 control towers around the country, Davidson said the Authority can dedicate its time to securing funding instead of trying to negotiate with the FAA.

With the cost of keeping the tower open so high, Davidson said he is stressing to members of the airport community that everyone will have to help to keep it open.

Despite the potential cost to businesses and operators at the airport, Davidson said, "I am sure they are thrilled to hear we are keeping the tower open."

Davidson said he has been assured by the New Hampshire's congressional delegation in Washington that the tower funding cuts will not become permanent once sequestration cuts run their course. He added that the delegation has been very helpful in trying to keep the tower open, and that they have assured him that they will continue to try to find ways to get the tower federally funded again as quickly as possible.


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