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Fri, Dec. 13

Prescott Airport continues to await FAA grant
City officials remain hopeful

An airside interior view of the Prescott Airport terminal rendering. (Courtesy)

An airside interior view of the Prescott Airport terminal rendering. (Courtesy)

More than a month after the City of Prescott postponed the groundbreaking for its new airport terminal, local officials are still awaiting word on a federal grant that would cover the bulk of the cost.

Airport Director Robin Sobotta reported this past week that the city has yet to hear about an award of federal supplemental money from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

But, she said, “Hopefully an announcement will be made soon.”

Ian Gregor, communications manager with the FAA Pacific Region, told The Daily Courier in an email, “We don’t comment on or confirm grants that we have not yet issued.”

He deferred to local airport officials, noting that they should be able to indicate whether the FAA has communicated to them about receiving supplemental grant money.

Indeed, Sobotta and City Manager Michael Lamar have said for months that they believe Prescott would be awarded a federal grant.

Meanwhile, Gregor said the FAA does not yet know the probable timing of this year’s supplemental grant awards.

LATER THAN EXPECTED

The city had expected to hear news about its grant application by late summer/early fall. Based on that, the groundbreaking for the $13.9 million terminal-construction project was originally scheduled for Oct. 4.

But in late September, Sobotta announced at a City Council meeting that the groundbreaking had been postponed because the city had yet to receive confirmation on its federal grant award.

Although she was hopeful at the time that the award would be announced within the month and the groundbreaking rescheduled, Sobotta said this past week that the city would continue waiting to hear from the FAA before rescheduling the start of construction.

APPROACHING PRICE EXPIRATION

The city is now within a couple of weeks from the expiration date for the “guaranteed maximum price” it received from the contracting team, Willmeng Construction/Fann Contracting.

In September, the city received a maximum price of $13,894,531 for the construction of the terminal under a construction-manager-at-risk arrangement. That price is good until Nov. 16, Sobotta said.

Still, she said the city believes the contracting team is “very interested and will go back into negotiation” if the grant award is not made before the price expiration.

In addition to the construction price, the terminal project includes $1,187,715 in construction administration costs, as well as a $579,889 baggage handling system, and $150,000 in furniture, fixtures, and equipment — bringing the total cost of the project to about $15.8 million.

Not all of the costs are eligible for FAA funding, and city’s projections anticipated $9.33 million in federal supplemental money.

MOVING FORWARD IN OTHER AREAS

Even as the city waits for its federal funding, a $1 million state grant is up for City Council approval.

Kristi Miller, airport management analyst, said this past week that an item for acceptance of a $1 million Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) grant would be on the Prescott Council agenda for approval on Nov. 12.

The $1 million, which was appropriated earlier this year by the Arizona State Legislature, would be slated for design and related expenses for the terminal.

In addition to the expected $1 million in state money, the city budgeted $3.5 million of its own funds toward the cost of the terminal.

Also on the Nov. 12 agenda is expected to be authorization to spend $198,944 for a planning study for extension of the airport’s main runway.

The length of the existing runway has presented challenges for the airport’s commercial flight service, and a study session on Nov. 12 will include information about the need for a planning study for the possible extension of the runway and associated taxiways, according to information from Miller.

Despite the delay in the start of the runway construction, the city opted to go ahead with the demolition of 10 T-shades and 10 hangars to make way for the new terminal.

“We decided to move forward,” Sobotta said, noting that the city “feels comfortable” that the terminal construction will still be started this year.

The city relocated the structures’ tenants, Sobotta added, and new T-shades are planned to be built in another area of the airport. The construction of those structures could begin as early as July 2020, Sobotta said.

The need for a new terminal at the Prescott Airport has been discussed for years, and the planning was accelerated this past year after the arrival of new commercial air carrier SkyWest, operating at United Express.

During its first year, the airline served about 27,000 boarding passengers, and city officials say the Prescott Regional Airport’s 1940s-era can no longer handle the increasing traffic.

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