Ukrainian Refugee Resettlement, Missoula Airport Expansion Updates
MISSOULA — This edition of Current Events with Missoula Current founding editor Martin Kidston examines the possibility of Ukrainian refugees being resettled locally as well as the airport’s ongoing expansion.
“IRC in Missoula has confirmed that they are expecting a handful of refugees over the coming weeks and months. President Biden pledged a few weeks ago to bring 100,000 refugees to the United States as part of the humanitarian effort that Europe is currently struggling with as Ukrainians flee their country. Some of those Ukrainians will end up in the United States and some of them will end up in Missoula through the International Refugee Conference in the city,” Kidston said.
“They don’t have an exact number yet, but in the past they have set a benchmark of around 100 refugees a year. There’s a good chance we can get refugees to Missoula. IRC says it’s going faster than expected. They are trying to prepare for this, but I think they are prepared and eager to help.
Concerns about security and the vetting process were expressed when Afghan refugees were resettled in Missoula, but no similar concerns were expressed about refugees from Ukraine.
“Strangely not yet. There seems to be no concern right now about helping Ukrainian refugees. Of course, last year when the United States pulled out of Afghanistan, it created a deluge of humanitarian crisis issues,” Kidston explained. “The United States stepped in and carried out the largest non-military airlift of non-combatants in military history. in Missoula, a few hundred. We also have refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have Iraqi refugees and a handful of other countries who have settled in Missoula and are trying to make a new life here in our city.”
Another topic we’ve covered before is the ongoing renovations at Missoula Airport.
“It’s pretty exciting. The first phase has been under construction for a few years. It costs about $69 million and offers space for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and multiple passenger gates. It’s scheduled to open May 4. It’s is when the airport plans to move from the old terminal to the new terminal. Once May 4 passes, they will begin to deconstruct the old terminal,” Kidston said.
“Last week they set aside $42 million in funding. They approved this financial package and they established a contract with Martel Construction to start bidding for this project. We should start seeing work later this year on phase two as long as this financial package holds up. This is good news for Missoula passengers. We all know that the old airport is relatively crowded and very outdated.
The second phase of work will include the addition of jet bridges and boarding gates.
“The first phase offered four jet bridges and several ground boarding stations. Phase two will add two additional jet bridges and at least two additional ground-based boarding gates. There is an opportunity that phase three could run alongside phase two,” Kidston explained. “If that happens, we could see another jet bridge and more gates, so the airport should be well-positioned to handle increased air passenger traffic and passenger demand for Missoula. for the coming years.”
“The second phase will include a permanent baggage claim. There will be two baggage carousels and other concession opportunities, which will really enhance what the airport has achieved over the past two years,” concluded Kidston.