Originally Published: October 31, 2015 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT - A cost difference of nearly $3.5 million was a major deciding factor in the Prescott City Council's choice of a new airport terminal site.
The council agreed on Tuesday, Oct. 27, that the best site for a new terminal would be the "west site" - near the existing terminal.
At an estimated cost of about $5.9 million, the west site was $3.4 million less expensive that the east site on Melville Road ($9.3 million).
For years, city officials have considered the possibility of a new terminal to replace the existing 1950s-era facility. In 2014, an Airport Area Steering Group helped compile an airport strategic-planning process.
That led to a $41,000 contract in December 2014 with consultant Dibble Engineering and subcontractor Nicholas J. Pela Associates for the assessment of sites for a new terminal.
This past June, the council heard a report from Nicholas Pela on two site choices - the west and the east.
In determining the value of each, the consultants took a number of factors into consideration, such as ease of access, land acquisition, operational considerations, potential for environmental impacts, impacts on adjacent land uses, and cost of the terminal building, site work, utilities, and access roads.
After the presentation on the two choices, members of the ad hoc steering committee reviewed the Dibble report in order to make a site recommendation to the council.
Committee members ultimately chose the west site, which would be located 300 feet northwest of the existing terminal. Among the reasons for the recommendation:
The recent and pending improvements to Highway 89 suggest that the highway will remain the primary access road for the airport.
Although the cost of the terminal building would be similar at both locations, the road improvement costs would be significantly higher at the east site - $4.4 million, compared to $1 million for the west site.
The west site would be visible from Highway 89, accessible, and near the existing airport.
Prescott Economic Initiatives Director Jeff Burt said the next step in Prescott's move toward a new terminal is, "to some degree an issue for after the new council is seated (on Nov. 24)."
The priorities of the new council would help to determine when and if the city applies to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for grants for a new terminal.
"Obviously, we're going to have to take a look at financing options," Burt said. "We've got some work to do before the next step."
Airport Manager John Cox pointed out most FAA grants currently are geared toward safety projects. The city maintains that a new terminal would be a safety project, he said, because the existing building is too close to the main runway.
A federal "building restriction line" requires that buildings be at least 1,000 feet from the runway, Cox said, adding that Prescott's existing terminal is about 780 feet from the runway.
Burt said city staff would have to work through the issues with FAA in coming months to determine the possibility of grants for the terminal.
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-642-0951.