Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials plan to meet with Martha’s Vineyard Airport management and airport commissioners next week to discuss the status of the airport’s master plan project.

The planning exercise, a comprehensive study of present and future development needed to meet aviation demands and serve the public interest, is more than two years behind schedule, and substantially incomplete, according to several people involved in the project.

The study of present and future development needs was last updated in 2002. — Timothy Johnson

The process of creating a master plan, last updated in 2002, is funded by federal taxpayers. The FAA issued a $660,155 grant to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport in 2012, from an account established by Congress in 1982 for public airport improvements.

“The FAA has been striving to work with the airport sponsor to complete the master plan update,” said Jim Peters, a spokesman for the FAA, in a statement emailed to the Gazette. “A standard time frame for a master plan project is 18 months. Any deviations to the project schedule should result in a revised schedule, which is the goal when meeting with the airport next week.”

The FAA does not impose any formal time frame for completing a master plan, and there are no penalties or sanctions for failure to meet deadlines.

The absence of a current master plan, however, could delay or jeopardize future improvements to the airport. An essential part of the document is an airport layout plan. That document shows existing facilities and planned future improvements. It is sometimes described as a wish list for federal funding.

The FAA must approve the layout plan. Approval by the federal agency indicates all the existing facilities and planned improvements conform to FAA design standards, and that the proposed development projects are safe and efficient. No development can be funded if it is not included on an FAA approved airport layout plan.

Turmoil over management changes, a legal battle with the commission’s appointing authority (the Dukes County Commission) over control of airport operations, and a workplace discrimination lawsuit have contributed to the disarray surrounding the master planning exercise, according to those close to the process.

Over the past two years, the Dukes County Commission has ousted six of the seven airport commissioners in office when the master plan project was initiated.

Plan looks at aviation and airport facilities needs. — Timothy Johnson

“There is very little information about the master plan,” said airport commission vice-chairman Robert Rosenbaum, appointed to the commission in March. “It is one of those things, as far as I can tell, that has been languishing for years. It is one of the things we’ve got to get back on top of, and make sure there is a master plan. We’ve been a little busy with more pressing matters, in the near term here.”

The master plan process got off to a quick start. Stakeholders in the exercise, including representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the FAA, Martha’s Vineyard Airport management and several industry consultants, met on Jan. 19, and April 22, 2012 to develop the scope of the project.

Jacobs Engineering Group, a $6 billion international firm which ranks among the largest public companies in the world, is the lead consultant on the planning exercise. At the beginning, five people from Jacobs Engineering Group were assigned to the project. Other consultants were lined up to evaluate aircraft noise, environmental field work, archaeological work, aerial mapping and a ground survey.

A large part of the planning process was designed to gather ideas and information from the public. On Dec. 6, 2012, at a well-attended public workshop meeting held at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Performing Arts Center, Island residents were promised public outreach throughout the process.

The master plan working group intended to set up three advisory subcommittees, one for aviation issues, another for airport facilities and business park issues and a third for environmental concerns. Membership of the working group and advisory committees was intended to include airport tenants, users and the public, as well as town, state and federal officials.

In a presentation prepared for that meeting, airport management outlined a rough schedule for the planning process. The schedule called for conducting inventory and creating working groups in the winter of 2012. By the spring of 2013, the schedule called for identifying needs, priorities, a capital improvement plan and a financial plan. Completion of the master plan was scheduled for the summer of 2013.

It is unclear that any substantial work on the master plan was accomplished after that initial public meeting.

The airport commission held a regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 10, 2013, nearly five weeks later. Under the heading “Airport Master Plan (Update)” the minutes state, “The Plan continued in data collection mode, and communication glitches were being remedied.”

More than one and a half years later, at a July 24, 2014 airport commission meeting, airport assistant manager Deborah Potter provided an update indicating that assignments for the master plan working groups were made at a meeting the day before.

“That group did meet on July 23 [2014],” Ms. Potter said. “All the participants were assigned their working groups, and the next meeting of that working group will be in September. That will give them some time to digest the very thick volume of material they were given relative to the airport master plan update on what the expectations for that group will be.”

While there may have been other areas of progress on the airport master plan project, it is not evident, given the reluctance of key stakeholders to comment, and without access to public records of airport meetings and sub-committee meetings.

Ms. Potter, who is now the acting airport manager, did not return phone messages asking for an update on the status of the master plan. On Thursday afternoon, she sent a statement by email.

“The airport master plan update is still ongoing,” she wrote. “We are in the process of reviewing some of the documents provided by Jacobs Engineering and will be resuming the meeting schedule again shortly in the beginning of November with the intent of trying to finish the project before April/May of next year if not sooner if possible.”

Early this year the Gazette requested minutes of airport commission meetings for an eight-month period from July 2014 to Feb. 2015. Airport officials have not been responsive to that request.

Employees of the Jacobs Engineering Group involved with the master plan project referred all questions to Martha’s Vineyard Airport management, citing a company policy that does not allow them to comment to reporters. A company spokesman did not return a message asking for comment.