Last week was a good week in Lawton when two separate entities were notified of grants or other funding.
The first bit of good news was confirmation from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao said Tuesday that $1.2 billion in FAA airport safety and infrastructure grants would be awarded, including $3,274,251 designated for the runway rehabilitation project at Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport. Airport Director Barbara McNally said last week that confirmation of the grant is the last step in a project that will seal cracks and joints, replace damaged segments of concrete runway and install an underdrain system along both sides of the runway to control a problem with groundwater that is causing cracking of the pavement. Construction is expected to begin in October, McNally said.
McNally said the contractor will work to convert the main taxiway into a runway, which will serve as a temporary runway during the 60-day period the “real” runway is closed for upgrades. While crack and joint sealing, along with replacement of some damaged concrete panels is important, a major component of the project is installation of underdrains the length of the runway, on both sides.
The drainage system is crucial because it addresses a cracking problem that prompted the airport to close its runway to heavy aircraft between February and October 2016. At the time, a preliminary engineering study indicated the weight of “heavies,” or heavy aircraft, was cracking the pavement and the airport closed its runway to all heavy aircraft except for emergency situations. That continued until an in-depth engineering analysis found the problem actually was groundwater ponding under the runway.
The second bit of good news came when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the U.S. Department of Agriculture had taken action allowing summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to all children through Dec. 31 or until funding runs out, as part of federal action to offset the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The action allows Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option meals to be served in all areas at no cost; to serve meals outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times; to waive meal pattern requirements as necessary; and to allow parents and guardians to pick up meals for their children.
Simply put, that means that effective immediately, all LPS students will eat breakfast and lunch at no charge.
The good folks who run the food service program for Lawton Public Schools proved in mid-March that they can make things happen quickly. When COVID-19 hit and schools were suddenly shut down for the rest of the semester, the food service people quickly went into action to provide meals for students. By the end of the semester in early May, more than 200,000 meals had been served. But they didn’t stop there, the summer feeding program continued until late July, providing thousands more meals to hungry students.
Now comes word that all students will receive free breakfasts and lunches. That surely is good news for parents who may not have returned to work yet due to the pandemic.
Yes, last week was a good week to live in Lawton.