SLO County airport revamp moves forward



Thanks to a unanimous Oct. 28 vote by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, officials at the SLO County Regional Airport will be able to take the next step in realizing plans for a new, expanded terminal.

After raising some concerns about potential future fiscal obligations for the county, the supervisors agreed to allow airport staff to apply for a roughly $20 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The final decision about the approximately $30 million plan to build a new and improved airport terminal—and how exactly that project would be funded—will likely return to the board for consideration in May 2015.

"The airport provides access to our communities in the county, and it's pretty vital to the business economy," Supervisor Debbie Arnold said. "To me, this is a no-brainer today."

In a previous interview with New Times, Assistant Airport General Manager Craig Piper said he’s confident the airport can secure the FAA grant by sometime in the spring of 2015. At that point, Piper said, the airport will seek bids from contractors and finalize their financial proposal.

Though airport staff expect to fund $20 million of the project through the FAA grant and another $7 million or so through passenger and rental car fees, the remaining $3 million is slated to come from “local funds”—county money—which was a point of contention for the supervisors.

Supervisors Bruce Gibson, Adam Hill, and Caren Ray all expressed trepidation about subsidizing the airport at such a high level down the road.

Gibson said he'd like to see a "Friends of the Airport" organization that could contribute funds—similar to what happens with county libraries—and also pointed out the private sector could contribute.

"Operating the airport is an essential part of what the county government does," Hill said. "That said, we'll be making tough decision about for how much and for how long we're going to invest."

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