Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Council may ground observation deck for Cape Girardeau Regional Airport (KCGI)

Kathryn's Report: http://www.kathrynsreport.com

Several Cape Girardeau City Council members appear ready to ground plans for a proposed, $30,000 public observation deck at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

Council members questioned the need for an observation deck during Monday night's council meeting during discussion of the proposed city budget for the coming fiscal year.

Ward 6 Councilman Wayne Bowen argued the airport has more important needs than an observation deck. Bowen said upgrading bathrooms or putting money toward new T-hangars would be a better use of city revenue. But airport manager Bruce Loy said the airport advisory board has long wanted an observation deck. Loy said it amounts to "customer service" to provide an area where people can watch planes take off and land.

Money from increased landing fees would pay for the project, Loy said.

Federal grants would pay for a number of improvements such as bathroom renovations, but not for an observation deck, he said.

Plans call for a fenced-in, observation deck to be built on the south end of the airport terminal, adjacent to the building's restaurant.

Justin Albright, vice chairman of the airport advisory board, told the council, "It wasn't just pie in the sky. We found an explicit funding source for it."

Albright said the project has been on the board's list of improvement priorities for the past five years.

But Ward 1 Councilman Joseph Uzoaru said, "I would be concerned that the observation deck would be used very little."

He argued "there is more we could be doing" at the airport than building an observation deck.

The airport has hangars that need repairs, he said

But Loy said he believes an observation deck would be well-used by the public. He said he sees parents and children stand outside the metal fencing to watch aviation activities.

Ward 4 Councilman Robbie Guard suggested the city might look to involve outside groups in developing an observation deck, avoiding the need to pay a prevailing wage which would add to the cost of the project.

Bowen suggested the city find an organization to sponsor the project.

Mayor Harry Rediger briefly voiced support for the project at Monday's meeting. On Tuesday, he explained his position more clearly. Rediger said he typically supports the recommendations of the city's advisory boards. He expressed confidence in the airport board.

"They are great volunteers," he said.

Rediger said he would be supportive of finding a different way to fund the project.

He pointed out the planned expense is a small part of a $90.3 million budget.

But Ward 3 Councilman Victor Gunn said he doesn't see a need to spend $30,000 on an observation deck. He pointed out user fees don't cover the cost of operating the airport.

The proposed 2016-2017 city budget calls for spending $2.3 million on airport operations and capital projects. Airport revenue is projected to total $1.65 million, including $932,000 in federal grants. The city would have to use $674,000 from the general fund to cover remaining costs, according to financial documents.

But $85,000 of general fund revenue is budgeted as the local match for federal grants for the airport, according to finance director John Richbourg. If the match money is taken out, the city expects to subsidize the airport by nearly $590,000 this year.

The project remains in the city budget for now. The council gave initial approval Monday to the city's overall spending plan. The council, however, could scrap the observation deck project later this month when the budget comes up for final approval.

Loy said Tuesday increased landing fees, worked out in an agreement with commuter airline Cape Air last November, will generate an added $100,000 in revenue for the airport over a two-year period.

In addition to the observation deck, another $30,000 of that revenue is earmarked to extend the terminal roof to protect the baggage handlers and baggage from inclement weather during the loading and unloading of passenger planes, Loy said.

The remaining $40,000 in added revenue would be put into the airport fund, lessening the amount of general-fund revenue needed to subsidize the airport, Loy said.

Original article can be found here: http://www.semissourian.com

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