Del Norte County supervisors on Tuesday agreed to a loan that will help the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority complete runway safety area improvements at Jack McNamara Field.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved loaning the authority up to $1.8 million to pay for additional environmental review, which is expected to be done this month, as well as the project's construction, according to Jeanine Galatioto, the airport authority's special assistant.
The loan would be paid back over a period of five years and could be amortized, or spread out, over a period of 20 years, according to county Administrative Officer Jay Sarina. The funding would come from the county's Stimson Sale Yield Tax Loss Fund. Sarina recommended that the Board of Supervisors direct county staff to work with the airport authority to find additional funding.
The loan will also provide contribution funding for the construction of the runway safety area improvements, according to Galatioto. About 95 percent of the $20 million project is being funded through a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration. The project must be finished by Dec. 31, 2015, to meet FAA requirements.
Airport authority staff has approached all government agencies in the joint powers authority with requests to pay $20,000 each for the annual debt service. On Tuesday, Galatioto said that apart from Curry County, which is experiencing extreme financial constraints, each agency has brought the issue before its legislative body.
In February, the Crescent City Council committed up to $20,000 a year for five years. Council members asked the airport authority to provide city staff with a five-year projection of revenue and expenses and a copy of the debt agreement.
Galatioto said she will appear before Elk Valley Rancheria's tribal council on Wednesday.
As for other sources of funding, the airport authority is pursuing grants through the Oregon Department of Transportation and Caltrans' Environmental Enhancement Mitigation Program, Galatioto said. The authority could be awarded up to $500,000 for the Caltrans grant and $400,000 for the Oregon grant, she said.
The Stimson fund comes from the sale of 25,000 acres of land in the Mill Creek Watershed belonging to the Stimson Lumber Company. The Save the Redwoods League bought the land for $5 million.
The county received another $500,000 when the Smith River Alliance purchased private land in the Goose Creek Watershed and added it to the Smith River National Recreation Area.
The fund was created to offset the property tax revenue the county lost when both properties were incorporated into public land, according to Sarina. Supervisors established the internal loan program so the fund would offset the loss of future property taxes.
According to Board Chairman David Finigan, Stimson Fund money was used to build the Family Resource Center.
"It was the largest payout to the county from which the county benefitted," he said. "The same results are expected if we approve (the airport loan) as well."
District 3 Supervisor Mike Sullivan pointed out that the improvements to the runway safety areas at the airport is one of the county's five major projects adopted years ago. Those include the reconstruction of the Crescent City Harbor, sewer upgrades, Highway 199 improvements and the redundant broadband cable providing high speed Internet.
"This is one of the ones that we need to get done so we can replace the airport terminal," Sullivan said.
Once the runway safety area project is completed, the airport authority hopes to start construction on a new 14,800 square-foot terminal.
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