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This airport extension comes without a fuss

The interim president of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) is looking for an extension and this time he’s getting it without a lot of fuss.

It’s not another runway extension Peter Frazier wants, although his request made last Friday of City Council President Bruce Place has to do with a longer runway.

Frazier had expected that by the end of September, RIAC would know whether the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would fund the project to extend Green’s main runway from 7,166 to 8,700 feet.

That didn’t happen and when it didn’t, Frazier knew he couldn’t keep his side of a memorandum of understanding to provide property owners affected by the project a timetable of when their homes would be acquired or when they could expect to participate in a voluntary acquisition program.

So, on Friday, Frazier asked for a three-week extension.

“We want to do it once and do it right,” Frazier said.

Seeing that RIAC has met with the Warwick Firefighters Soccer Association and the Apponaug Girls Fastpitch Softball League, as well as city officials, on the relocation of Winslow Park fields, Mayor Scott Avedisian said he has no problem with the extension. The groups met last Thursday on plans to convert land cleared of homes in the Lake Shore Drive neighborhood into the recreational park.

Place hadn’t seen the letter as of yesterday morning, however, when informed of what Frazier is looking for, he said, “I see no reason why we wouldn’t do that.”

At issue for RIAC is the financial plan for the runway extension.

What RIAC is looking for is a letter of intent (LOI) that the FAA plans to fund the $84 million project. RIAC is hopeful of 75 percent funding, but would probably proceed with something less. With the LOI, RIAC would borrow the money to do the work, knowing it would be repaid when the extension is completed.

Two aspects of the longer runway impact property owners.

RIAC will need to acquire 16 properties in order to relocate Main Avenue so as to loop it around the end of the runway. Frazier said these mandatory acquisitions would be made by Sept. 30, 2014, assuming the funding is in place. The second group of properties falls within the runway protection zone. These 64 properties would come under the voluntary acquisition program to be completed by Dec. 31, 2017.

What RIAC promised to give property owners in the agreement where the City Council dropped an appeal of the longer runway project in exchange for various guarantees, was a timetable of those acquisitions by the end of September.

The intent is to give property owners an idea of when they would become eligible for the buyout program.

“It needs to be done in a manner that is logical,” says Frazier. Yet there are variables. He notes RIAC wants to be sensitive to hardship cases that could step up or delay when a property is bought. Also, he said, there is a concern that the houses being acquired are in clusters, so as not to acquire neighborhoods by piecemeal.

When the financial plan is finalized, RIAC will be able to provide property owners a year within the next five years of when they would be eligible for the voluntary acquisition program. The plan is for all 64 property owners to become eligible for the program by the time the runway extension is finished in 2017.

Naturally, this all hinges on money.

Frazier said he’s heard nothing that would lead him to believe the FAA won’t approve funding.

“I’m fully confident we’re going to get the funding,” he said.

As for an extension, city officials were ready to give him that.


Comments
5 comments on this item

Ok so the money is expected, why can't they play the hypthothetical game? If the money is funded as planned than these would be the dates ???

Furthermore, if money doesn't come from one source, than it will come from another anyways.

I don't get why it is so difficult to give a time line. I found this article to be confusing (I had to read it a couple times).

The City Council should remain tough with RIAC to make sure RIAC is true to its word. Just because the suit was dropped doesn't mean it can't be revisted if RIAC doesn't hold up to its part of the bargain.

RIAC needs to be aggressive with this airport expansion and not drag it out for more years.

RIAC doesn't seem to be in good faith with not announcing dates by Sept 30th and keeping home owners in the dark !!!!

Richard Langseth I a wait your two cents...

FAA had to wait until September 28, 2012 to take action on financing anything to do with the EIS projects except for the safety improvements. That is because CRMC did not issue its EPA-required conformance finding until June 28th kicking off a 90 day no action period. It was late because the CRMC had a quorum problem at at May meeting. The FAA makes its discretionary airport improvement grants during the third week in August to meet an October 1st funding date. Nothing could happen after that third week in August. It is no surprise that RIAC is in the funding situation that it is now in. It is hard to believe that anything but an FAA Letter of Intent would be acted upon prior to next August.

A letter of intent would allow RIAC to borrow private money in advance of future FAA funding awards. The eventual FAA funding awards would not be guaranteed - but if RIAC had reasonable credit ratings it could borrow millions and millions on the hope that FAA funding would happen. Given the current situation at RIAC and EDC does that make any sense???

A Letter of Intent one might be possible. However, few are being awarded during these crazy financial times. And the RIAC project does not meet the FAA criteria because it is not a capacity-related project. This becomes a bigger issue with each passing year because the airport operations have plunged since general aviation landing fees were intentionally raised to drive private planes to Quonset and North Central during a period when general aviation contracted across the country. Then starting in 2005 the Big Dig was finished and passenger counts started plunging too. Capacity improvement is a key ingredient to borrowing against a letter of credit. And RIAC is between a rock and a hard place on that one. Who is going to lend RIAC tens of millions on the hope that FAA might eventually fund the project???? This funding is not through tax free bonds at high interest rates but bank lending. Think about that one everyone.

This is all being complicated by the funding that was made available for the safety improvements. The newly changed configuration of the crosswinds runway to keep it "within the fence" of the existing runway requires additional environmental action of some kind. A restated EIS is needed with an additional public process of some kind. With the EIS reopened the issuing of a Letter of Intent becomes problematic.

The big problem for the City Council as nothing to do with all of the above - it is the total lack of progress in obtaining funding for the glycol management project. Where is that financing? The City Council cannot play nice guy and the mayor cannot back off from the glycol plant deadlines. EDC, RIAC's parent is stuck in a box. Only EDC can raise this money. How does that happen?

Peter Frazier threw his hat into the ring for RIAC President. I am glad he did and as I stated to the RIAC Board its members should look very favorably on a Frazier presidency. This RIAC mess is so fraught with twists and turns that Peter is probably the only person on earth who can grasp all that is going on and come out of this mess with a sane solution. Can you image a Yahoo riding into town in his giant SUV trying to solve the RIAC problems without all this background?

What is the state going to do to offset the loss of 80 homes from the tax rolls? This is probably about 200,000 in taxes for these homes, lost forever.

I know I'm one of them under the mandatory acquisition program unless they can figure how to split the re-located Main Ave. around my home!

Saw the proposed re-located Main Ave. running right through my property in the FEIS July 2011 report... Great! Will be heading to South County.

Here are the RIAC financial results as of June 30, 2012 and 2011 respectively that were posted on the web yesterday:

Loss before capital contributions 2012 - (5,490,126) 2011 - (2,747,410)

Interest paid, long-term obligations 2012 - (17,258,685) 2011 - (15,380,159)

Payments on long-term obligations 2012 - (10,784,464) 2011 - (11,916,137)

This means the debt service (cash basis) was $28,046,147 or about 50% of all revenues and grant income was eaten up by debt service in 2012 with a resulting loss of about ten cents on every dollar. That is one reason why RIAC is being so careful in dealing with financing required for glycol management, safety improvements, and the elusive runway extension - a project that RIAC proposes to finance through temporary bank loans backed by a cancellable FAA Letter of Credit. Does anybody believe a bank will lend RIAC tens of millions to build the runway extension? With a loss of $5 million last year and more of the same coming up out into the foreseeable future along with a need to float high interest bonds for the glycol plant and the safety improvements -- which will increase these losses by millions -- can you think of a bank willing to take on a risky RIAC extension project against the extremely remote chance that tens of West Coast flights will pop up per day to turn things around at Green.

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