Wicomico County has gotten the green light for its Salisbury-Ocean City-Wicomico Regional Airport Water Main Extension Project which will expand the City of Salisbury’s water to the airport campus. Through a mixture of grant funding and loans, this change will soon get underway to boost growth and increase safety. Various departments and local leaders are working together for the benefit of the Salisbury and Lower Eastern Shore communities by moving forward with the water extension.
The regional airport has long been without potable water, relying on wells that provide poor water quality. The hangars and buildings on the airport campus have been operating with what is available from the wells, but the extension of city water opens up more opportunity. Safety, business development and overall operation are expected to improve with the addition of city water.
Aside from better water quality, it can be expected that fire safety will also improve on the airport campus. Along the six miles between Wor-Wic Community College (the location of the city water tower the extension will run from) and the airport, fire hydrants will be installed every 500 feet. Access for fire companies to these hydrants will allow for better management of large fires—along with chemical fire solvents in some hangars. Potentially, as a bonus, this change may result in lower home insurance costs for surrounding residents, Weston Young, Assistant Director of Administration at Wicomico County, predicts. Further, more safety means more opportunity for the airport.
With greater access to fire hydrants and increased water safety, the airport will be able to build more and larger hangars and expand Business Park. Larger hangars, closed buildings that house aircrafts, will open up the prospect of larger planes. Not only could larger plans be a major business win for the community, but the airport also expects to delve into drone housing and testing. Currently, plans have been set for a new building that will be part office space, part drone hangar according to Young, who reports that the building will break ground in the short term.
All of this progress is made possible by community cooperation, grant funding, and a low interest loan. The City of Salisbury provided permission to extend the city’s water out to the airport. Once constructed and paid for by Wicomico County, the city will also take over the maintenance and upkeep of the extended main. The Maryland Board of Public Works and Maryland Department of Environment also play a role in the project.
Young commented, “[W]e are grateful to the city of Salisbury for being in support of this project and for allowing us to extend their municipal water out to the airport. We are also thankful to the state [of Maryland] for providing the majority of the funding by giving the max amount of grant funds possible.”
Grant funds from the state of Maryland through the Water Supply Financial Assistance Fund provided $1,500,000 for this expansion. A remaining $2,928,292, according to Young, is in the form of a low interest loan via the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund. Wicomico County will cover the cost of the loan. Getting the project underway, the construction job has been granted to the lowest bidder, David A. Bramble, Inc., in accordance with county procedure.
Once construction does begin, minimal impact to residents is expected as most of the work will be outside of the roadbed. Some of the drilling will be under Mt. Hermon Road. Working closely with the City of Salisbury to ensure proper standards, Wicomico County is expecting the project to take around a year’s time to complete once started.
This major project is unlikely to be the last for the Salisbury-Ocean City-Wicomico Regional Airport as the expanded water opens up more growth potential.
Young indicated that this is only the first step. Undoubtedly, whatever is next for the airport, it will mean great progress for Salisbury, Wicomico County, and the surrounding communities.