Press-Republican

January 25, 2013

County borrows to finance terminal expansion

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County legislators took another step toward expanding Plattsburgh International Airport by agreeing to borrow about $43 million.

“This is a big step, but it is one we have to take, and we are moving closer,” Legislator Robert Heins, chairman of the county’s Airport Committee, told the Press-Republican.

The legislature agreed to borrow $42,598,222 in the form of serial bonds to help pay for the cost of the $60 million expansion of the airport terminal.

The total cost of the expansion is expected to be about $60 million, and the county is hoping to get about $17 million from the federal government.

2014 CONSTRUCTION

The airport opened in 2007 on the flight line of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

It cost more than $40 million, paid for by funds from the federal Military Airport Program, which aids communities that lost military installations. PAFB closed in 1995.

Since opening, the airport has done so much business that county legislators decided last year to undertake a major expansion. Design plans are being put together, and construction should start early next year and be completed in 2016.

PAYING THE LOAN

To repay the $43 million loan, the county is counting on passenger fees and parking revenue.

The county gets $4.50 for every passenger flying out of the airport. Parking fees are $5 per day in the economy lot and $7 per day in the main lot.

“The plan is to finance this through these user fees and parking,” said Heins  (R-Area 10, City of Plattsburgh).

“We are not looking to use any taxpayer money on this.”

The county took in $806,877 in parking fees in 2012 and about $480,000 in passenger fees.

The county will make payments on the bonds for 30 years.

EXPECT BETTER YEAR

County Deputy Administrator Rodney Brown said revenues were down slightly in 2012 because of the departure of Direct Air, which stopped flying out of the airport in March after the airline experienced financial difficulties.

Many of those flights have since been picked up by Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, and, in December, Allegiant began offering flights to Las Vegas on 757 jets that hold 233 passengers.

“We were a little down last year because of Direct Air, but we expected to make that up this year,” Brown said.

Funding for daily operations of the airport comes from rental agreements, fuel sales, concessions and the general fund. About $2 million from the general fund was budgeted for airport operations in 2013.

Email Joe LoTemplio: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com