Airportproponents provide more ammunition

Published on Thu, Sep 14, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Airport proponents provide more ammunition

By Tara Nelson

Closing the Blaine municipal airport could cost as much as $4 million, city officials say.

On Monday, the Blaine City Council met in executive session with city attorney Jon Sitkin to review his report on the legal and financial issues associated with closing the airport. The report found that while the city has the authority to close the airport, doing so could cost somewhere between $1 million and $4 million, depending on a number of possibilities, city manager Gary Tomsic said.

Tomsic said since 1989, the city has received a number of grants from the State Department of Transportation’s (DOT) aviation division, the conditions of which require repayment with interest if the airport ceases to operate.

Tomsic added that although the amount would be negotiable, it is possible the grant repayments could total as much as $556,000.
The city could also find itself in legal disputes as it has two leases with private individuals for land occupying hangers. If the airport is closed, these leases would have to be terminated at a cost to the city, Tomsic said.

The city would also be forced to absorb the $700,000 in debt which has to be paid to the Carruther’s family for the acquisition of a piece of their property which borders the airport, an amount that would be covered by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration if the proposed expansion is to occur.

Airport master plan to be reviewed in more detail
The Blaine Airport Commission will present a detailed economic analysis of a possible airport expansion next week during a Blaine City Council work session.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., September 19 in the council chambers, the day after a scheduled presentation of the Alternative Land Use Committee’s economic forecast of alternative uses for Blaine’s municipal airport.

In an earlier meeting this month, the airport commission unveiled its master plan for a $20 million airport expansion to the council but commission chair Doug Fenton said its latest presentation will show a more detailed look at the project’s economic benefits.

“The last meeting was simply to get the council to adopt the master plan,” Fenton said. “This one is going to be an economic analysis of what the airport will be like in an expanded form and comparing that to the alternate use committee report.”

Fenton said the council asked him to prepare a detailed report after the alternative committee failed to calculate in certain factors such as airport revenues and leaseholder taxes in their final report.

“It was a little short on specifics,” Fenton said. “We’re going to fill in some of those blanks and then give a comparison of the two.”

The alternative land use committee will present their final report to the city council at 7 p.m. September 18, at the Blaine Community Center at 763 G Street. No action will be taken at the meeting.

The city has also scheduled two community meetings in the city to hear comments from Blaine residents on what they think important issues are.

The next meeting in the series is scheduled for 7 p.m., September 20 at the Blaine Community Center. For more information, call 332-8311.