Fate Of New Airport Terminal Rests With Private Sector

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Town officials are looking at an alternate plan for a new terminal at the Payson Municipal Airport after they learned that a large part of the proposed building cannot be funded by federal grants.

The preliminary plan for the airport's terminal was submitted to the Arizona Department of Transportation March 1, but 55 percent of the building was deemed ineligible for FAA grants.

Town Manager Rich Underkofler said the project, which depended largely on the grant funding, will be turned over to a private entity.

Underkofler explained that more than half the terminal was considered "income-producing" and therefore, ineligible for the grant.

He said, in order to get the funding, the airport manager would have to be a town employee, not on contract as he is now, and there could be no counter space, rental car space or restaurant.

Without the funding, the town would have to come up with 55 percent of an $800,000 building, which it cannot afford, Underkofler said.

"We've shifted gears," he said. "We've reduced the scope of the work by the architect from $80,000 to $15,400. All we're going to do is a concept plan."

Instead of the town funding the project, it is going to seek a private developer to build the structure and lease space in the building.

Underkofler said possibilities for the leased spaces include restaurants, office spaces, flight training services and aircraft maintenance offices.

"It would be a public/private partnership where the private partner would be building the terminal," he said. "The grant money would only be used for a schematic plan, which would be a marketing tool."

He said an example of such a partnership is in Page, where Scenic Airlines built the building. Another terminal in Riverside, Calif. was built with private money.

Local architects Gary Spragins and Rex Hinshaw are working on a color rendering of the building for presentation at the April 20 meeting of the airport board.

Spragins said he has not determined a square footage for the building, but explained that it will be designed with a plan for expansion at a later date.

"What we're trying to do now is design the building with flexibility so that a private entity could build the building and lease space back to the town and businesses," he said.

"This is two or three years out," Underkofler said. "We haven't got all the land together yet."

Some of the property involved with the airport terminal is land that the Payson IV Land Exchange has been working on with the U.S. Forest Service.

"The Washington office is saying they should phase down the scope," Underkofler said. "The timing of the terminal building is indefinite, depending on what piece they leave for the exchange."

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