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2:49 AM Wed, Nov. 21st

Prescott looks for new airport terminal site

PRESCOTT -  For the past seven decades or so, Prescott's little airport terminal has dealt with ever-changing aviation needs.

But the 1940s-era facility apparently no longer flies in the 21st century.

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Prescott City Council approved a $41,000 airport terminal siting assessment, which will aim to determine the next best move for the terminal.

Airport Manager John Cox expects consultant Dibble Engineering and subcontractor Nicholas J. Pela Associates to kick off the assessment in January 2015.

Then, within three-and-a-half to four months, a final draft should be ready for city review, Cox said.

Along the way, consultants will look at two basic options - the west site, adjacent to the current terminal; and the east site, which would be on Melville Road.

"There are benefits for both areas, and opportunities and challenges for both," Cox said.

He added that a major consideration will be access, including issues such as where customers will park and drop off, as well as locations for car rentals.

"There are a lot of logistics," Cox said.

The decision to move forward with the terminal site assessment came at the same time as the City Council's approval of recommendations from a private-sector ad hoc Airport Area Steering Group, which has been helping with an ongoing airport strategic-planning process.

Steering Committee member Michael Gjede told the council that while a major focus of the planning process was the area surrounding the airport, he added, "It was hard to break that out when the airport really is the centerpiece."

Among the recommendation's main goals was development of the Prescott Airport as a commercial airport exceeding 10,000 annual passengers (enplanements).

One of the action items for that goal: To replace the existing terminal.

The siting assessment is just the first in a number of steps that would have to happen before the city could begin construction on a new terminal.

During a presentation in November, the committee pointed out that as much as $45 million (the bulk of which would be eligible for federal grants) in improvements are needed on the airport's runways and taxiways.

And future City Council votes would be required for grant applications to cover a portion of the estimated $5 million cost of a new terminal.

The steering committee's recommendations point out that the Federal Aviation Administration guidelines suggest that federal grants could cover about 60 percent of the cost, while the remainder would be local.

Cox noted that although a new airport terminal would be eligible for state and federal grants, he said Prescott would face plenty of competition in getting those grants. "We would have to queue up and justify our need for a terminal," he said.

The focus on the airport terminal is nothing new in Prescott. Back in 2004, the city entered a $389,170 design contract with Z&H Engineering, Inc. for a 22,000-square-foot new terminal building, including a restaurant, conference room, and expanded passenger facilities.

Cox said that design is too elaborate for the city's current needs. The new plan would call for about 10,000 square feet, he said, which could easily accommodate as many as 50,000 passengers a year. Currently, the handles about 5,000 passengers through its subsidized commercial air service.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.