Monday, December 16, 2013

No hang-up for hangar, West Star officials hope: Grand Junction Regional Airport (KGJT), Grand Junction, Colorado

Denny Granum, Grand Junction Regional Airport Board

West Star Aviation plans to go ahead with plans to build a new paint hangar at Grand Junction Regional Airport early next year, but airport officials aren’t yet ready for them to move forward.

West Star General Manager Dave Krogman said the original time line for its 40,000-square-foot paint hangar, which is expected to create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs, has not been disrupted by a federal investigation into the inner workings of the airport.

The expansion could eventually create as many as 150 new jobs, each paying up to $52,000 a year.

Krogman said West Star expects to break ground by March or April as planned.

But Denny Granum, chairman of the Grand Junction Airport Authority board, said the investigation has made it impossible for the authority to sell the $8 million in bonds it needs to buy the hangar and lease it back to West Star.

As a result, the project could be delayed, Granum said.

The authority approved a concept for the project in October that called on West Star to secure a construction loan for the hangar by Dec. 1.

That has not happened, Granum said.

The plan also calls for the authority to issue revenue bonds to buy the hangar once it is built and then lease it back to West Star. Bond commitments were supposed to be in place by Sunday, but that will not happen either, Granum said.

“The authority’s ability to bond is on hold,” he said.

Granum said bonds can’t be issued until the FBI investigation is resolved and no one knows when that will happen.

Alternative arrangements that would allow the authority to buy the hangar from West Star without bond financing are under discussion, he said.

Those discussions include getting the city or the county, both of which own the airport, to guarantee the debt, allowing the bonds to be sold.

Granum said West Star Chief Executive Officer Robert Rasberry told him Dec. 12 that the aircraft maintenance company is committed to finding a way to make the deal happen.

Meanwhile, final architectural drawings are going through a vetting process with the city as originally planned, Krogman said.

West Star has already spent $600,000 to get final plans in order and is proceeding with the original construction time line without regard to the FBI investigation, in hopes that it will be resolved before construction is to start, Krogman said.

“We want to be ready to break ground when the time comes,” he said.