Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field’s control tower is now a candidate for the the Federal Aviation Administration’s contract tower program.
U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe and County Judge Bill Magers talked about the new status for the local control tower during Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting. For Grayson County residents, getting the tower into the program will mean a $300,000 relief off the county’s $30 million budget and an upgrade to part of the county’s economic engine.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without my staff’s tireless coordination with our home-state U.S. Senators and their staffs, constant contact with the FAA and DOT, and collaboration with Grayson County officials, including Judge Magers and Texas Aviation Partners," Ratcliffe said in a press release. “Since the Trump administration took charge, I’m glad we’ve made drastic progress on this important Northeast Texas priority at a much more efficient pace, so that the folks I’m proud to represent can start reaping the rewards of our long-fought battle."
Ratcliffe said there are just a few things the county had to do to get accepted into the program, but he doesn’t anticipate any trouble with that. County Judge Bill Magers said the county had yet to receive the task list for getting in, but has been assured it won’t be a problem.
The $300,000 that the county has had to put toward the airport could be put to work in other areas including, possibly, other transportation-related projects. Magers recently said the $300,000 represents about half a cent on the tax rate and could relate, at some point, to another tax decrease for the county.
Last month, Jamie Baker, director of public policy for U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, told commissioners that the county’s benefit-to-cost-ratio numbers regarding tower spending were up for final review with the federal government. If accepted into the program, the tower could receive up to $500,000 in annual funding, which would be an increase of about $200,000 for the airport.
Grayson County first moved to get the control tower into the FAA’s Tower Program in June 2012. The FAA program currently extends federal funds to most of the nation’s air traffic control towers which are stationed at airports that record at least 100,000 operations, or flights, each year.
Magers recently said NTRA records 80,000 annual operations, but that figure did not include operations which occurred during hours the tower was closed. If those after-hours operations were included in the count, Magers said the tower would surpass the 100,000 mark stipulated by the program.
While both Magers and Ratcliffe were quick to praise each other as they celebrated the announcement Tuesday, Magers also had congratulations for others.
“We want to give thanks to those who came before us,” Magers said indicating the commissioners and county judges who have invested county time and money in the airport in the past.
He said that effort went back decades before he became county judge.
“This moves us from a minor league airport to a major league airport,” Magers said of NTRA’s acceptance as a candidate for the federal program.
He said it should also make a difference to companies that are looking to locate in Grayson County.