Consultants are recommending that Sherman invest nearly $9.31 million in the Sherman Municipal Airport over the next 20 years. These recommendations came as a part of the conclusion of nearly six months of evaluations and planning by city officials by consultants on how best to utilize the small airport.

Representatives with consulting firm Corgan presented the findings of phases one and two of the new airport master plan along with proposed prices for suggested improvements during Monday night’s City Council meeting.

The recommendations focused on increasing capacity at the airport through new facilities while continuing maintenance of existing infrastructure for the next 20 years.

“We have a tremendous opportunity at this airport and an unmet demand for hangars on the airport property itself,” said Keith O’Connor, representing Corgan.

In setting a time table for improvements, O’Connor described activity levels for the airport rather than specific time periods. As activity increased or decreased at the airport, the time tables could increase or decrease, he said.

For the immediate goals in the first activity, O’Connor said he expected them to take place within the next five years. The second activity level would generally cover the years 2025 through 2029 and the third level would continue from 2030 through the years 2040.

Corgan suggested nearly $953,000 of improvements in the short term. These improvements include the construction of one new T-hangar facility, which will increase the airport’s capacity for based aircraft by seven. The first phase could also see an increase in automobile parking and a new 1,000 gallon fuel tank for MoGas fuel at the existing fuel island along with pavement maintenance to taxiway A and the central tie-down area.

For the first phase of projects, O’Connor said the city’s cost could be as low as $534,000 thanks to grants and funding from the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT offers funding for capital improvement projects at a 90-10 ratio, meaning that the city could only need to invest $41,000. The TxDOT Routine Airport Maintenance Program, also known as the RAMP grant, could cover other maintenance and improvement projects though $50,000 matching grants.

“The good news is there are a lot of projects on here that are eligible for TxDOT funding, and the responsibility is not going to be on the city by itself,” O’Connor said.

The second phase of improvements will pick up on projects from the first phase, with a total price of $1.38 million. Recommendations call for the construction of a second T-hangar building along with additional pavement maintenance to the runway, apron areas and the north tie-down areas. Of the expenses, the city’s portion could be as low as $656,000.

The second phase will also see a new 6,000 gallon fuel tank installed, along with the creation of a through-the-fence agreement with the developers of a proposed new hangar home development. Silver Falcon Estates, which would be build directly adjacent to Sherman Municipal, would feature nearly 70 homes catered to aviators, with some homes featuring connected hangars or tie-down space for aircraft.

The largest phase of improvement would likely come sometime between 203- and 2040. The master plans call for an additional seven T-hangar units along with six box hangars and additional building, utility and pavement projects with a price tag of $2.93 million. The phase will also see a $1.41 million expansion of fuel services to the south side of the airport.

In total, the phase could see $6.98 million in projects but the city’s portion could be as low as $2.42 million.

The recommendations received some skepticism from the council, with members voicing concerns that the speculation was not based in the reality of the Sherman market.

“I don’t think we have 27 more citizens in Sherman who own airplanes,” council member Pam Howeth said, referring to the recommended number of hangars. “So, in order for this whole thing to come together we need to be able to show to our citizens here in Sherman that we are making enough money off this airport to justify the expense.”

As a part of the planning phase, the consultants considered the demand at the airport and found that the airport has more than 20 aircraft currently on a waiting list for hangar space. Goals set throughout the planning phase called for a total of 50 based aircraft by the year 2040.

Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said the city views the first phase of improvements at the airport as a way of testing the water and confirming if the demand and market is there. After the initial investment, the city can determine if the need truly is there.