With full federal funding planned, projects at S.D. public airports get state panel’s approval

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Aeronautics Commission has given the nod to some $11-million of work at public airports that the federal government will fully fund.

Various improvements are planned at Aberdeen, Brookings, Gregory, Lemmon, Rosebud, Sisseton, Sturgis, Tea and Wessington Springs.

Pavement maintenance is set for Canton, Custer County, Harding County, Highmore, Hoven, Lemmon, McLaughlin, Onida, Pine Ridge and Vermillion.

The State Department of Transportation also plans pavement inspections at airports throughout South Dakota. There could be 30 to 35 more applications in the months ahead, said Jon Becker, a SDDOT staff member.

“I’m glad to see this happening,” chairman Eric Odenbach of Eureka said.

Normally the state airport trust fund and local funds share 10% of costs for the federal program, with the Federal Aviation Administration providing 90%.

But the federal government is taking responsibility for 100% as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Becker told the commission at its Thursday meeting.

In related news, state Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt said the department has eliminated the position of deputy secretary. 

He told the commission that the state Office of Air, Rail and Transit has been re-assigned back to the department’s finance division, run by Kelli Beck. 

He said that structure was in place some years ago. 

“You’ve got a very dedicated and competent staff, and they’re going to remain in that manner,” Jundt said. 

He explained he is unable to continue overseeing the air, rail and transit duties now that he has more duties as secretary. But he intends to continue delivering reports to the commission.

Jundt was deputy prior to the November 13 retirement of the previous secretary, Darin Bergquist. 

Chairman Odenbach remarked, “It will be interesting to see what effect those changes have, if any.”  

Jundt said he hopes the commission won’t see any difference. 

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