Monday, April 02, 2012

Airport authority asks for loan from Stafford

The Stafford Regional Airport Authority has asked the county  for a $1.4 million loan to construct a new, permanent terminal building.

Currently, a double-wide trailer serves as the terminal west of Interstate 95 exit 136.

And while the trailer works for private pilots, the authority wants a terminal to expand the airport’s use for businesses that may use it for work-related travel.

“The corporate aviation side could do better,” Henry Scharpenberg, chairman of the authority, told the Stafford Board of Supervisors recently. “Those are the folks that bring in real revenue for the county.”

At Wednesday’s board meeting, supervisors are scheduled to authorize a public hearing on financing the $1.4 million loan.

This would also keep the airport competitive with Leesburg Executive and Manassas Regional airports, Scharpenberg said.

In 2009, Stafford eliminated personal property tax on airplanes. Since then, the waiting list for hangar space has grown—including from many plane owners outside of the county.

The Stafford airport authority would repay the county loan over 25 years, Scharpenberg said.

The Virginia Department of Aviation would provide the remainder of the $3.6 million needed to build the terminal.

The goal is that commercial use would bring in profits for the airport, through leasing land and increased fuel sales.

Six pad sites are ready for corporate hangar development.  One is under negotiation.

“These sites are for the aviation side of a business, flight departments or other aviation-related interests,” airport manager Ed Wallis said in an email.
The county would see benefits by bringing in leasehold tax revenue, Scharpenberg said.

Stafford’s Transportation Fund could advance the construction money as a loan to the airport authority, according to county documents.

Debt service could be $70,000 to $95,000 per year with a 25-year payout;  interest would total about $435,000, the county report said.

If the airport defaulted on repayment of the loan, fuels tax receipts held by the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission could be used to reimburse the county for debt service costs.

Construction of the terminal could start next spring.

Designs were done in 2009, and could be ready with slight updates. The project could be put out to bid this summer.

The airport also has long-term plans to extend its runway by 1,000 feet. It’s currently 5,000 feet, but competitors offer longer runways. That allows jets and planes to take off with full tanks of gas—meaning the airport increases its revenue from fuel sales.

But Scharpenberg said the terminal takes priority over the runway improvements to attract corporate clients.

The airport authority includes representatives from Stafford and Prince William counties, and the city of Fredericksburg.

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