CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. (KELO) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke highly of operations at the Chamberlain Municipal Airport after taking a look at the facility Monday afternoon.
“They’ve been able to operate a very important general aviation terminal that’s not just important for something like pheasant hunting season, but for something like medevac operations that happen about 200 times a year, so more than every other day,” Buttigieg said. “That’s a critically important mission for this community, and with not a lot of resources, the folks here have made it work.”
$855,000 of federal grant money will pay for a new terminal, and the City of Chamberlain has applied for additional federal money to extend the airport’s runway. The airport usually has two or three flights every day, but that number expands to 10 or 20 a day in hunting season.
“We are expanding the runway to bring in the bigger planes for medevacs, and then we get a lot of jets in for hunting season as well,” city administrator Clint Soulek said.
Pilot Shawn McMahon, who has helped the city run the airport, was also on hand Monday.
“You’re not seeing the commercial planes, but tourism, recreation and business,” McMahon said. “To get businesses to come to cities like Chamberlain, you need to have this transportation network.”
“Even though a six-figure grant like the $800,000 we’re putting into this might be considered a rounding error in New York City, that’s make or break where I come from, and I know the same is true in a place like this,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg was in Chamberlain, he says, to drive home the point of what funding can do.
“I’m trying to send the message that you don’t have to, a project doesn’t have to be in the billions and a population doesn’t have to be in the millions in order to matter,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg is scheduled to be in the Salem, South Dakota area on Tuesday, where trucking will be in focus.