[caption id="attachment_10816" align="alignnone" width="360" caption="The interior of the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport will be expanded, with more room for both passengers and airport staff."][/caption]

Funding includes grant from federal stimulus; 110 construction jobs

SANTA ROSA - The Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport is getting ready for a major facelift, thanks to funds coming from two different sources totaling more than $3.3 million.

An airport improvement grant of $1.7 million, coming from airline ticket taxes, will allow airport apron rehabilitation and overlay and repaving of the airplane parking area, said Airport Manager Jon Stout.

Funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, expected to be $1.685 million, will go into expansion and upgrades for the inside of the terminal.

"We requested $1 million, but after bidding out the job we realized we'd need more," said Mr. Stout.

The winning bid of $1,582,709 was made by Murray Building Inc. of Sonoma.

It will oversee construction of a baggage claim system, including moving belts and a carousel, and a straight belt for checked luggage. The metal slide now in place will be removed.

The main terminal will be connected to the screening area and security checking will be relocated in the new space, freeing up space for two more checking counters and four more agents.

"Although if Horizon installs an automatic, self-serve baggage claim system, which has worked well in a couple of other airports, perhaps they'll need only six agents," said Mr. Stout.

Checking operations that currently take place in a breezeway will be fully enclosed. About 5,000 square feet of passenger lobby space will be gained, there will be more room in the hold room, and for the first time car rental agents will have their own desks and back office space.

Two restrooms will be added.

The construction is expected to generate 110 jobs, an important factor in receiving federal stimulus money, said Mr. Stout.

The airport is currently waiting for the FAA to issue a notice to proceed.

"We should get that this week or next, along with the stimulus funds. Then we'll embark on a month of paperwork to ensure that our specs are spelled out," he said.

Assuming everything arrives when expected, work could begin mid-August. Passengers and employees could be enjoying the new space in six to eight months.

In other airport developments, a new Horizon Air service to San Diego is a possibility if the economy picks up, according to Mr. Stout.

And a piece of U.S. Senate legislation aimed at enhancing fire and emergency safety at airports by requiring more fire staff on hand for each flight appears to be slowed in committee proceedings.

The new regulation would mandate that the Sonoma County airport have six fire staff present for each departure and arrival, a cost Horizon has said it would not cover and the airport could not absorb, Mr. Stout said.