FoCo council may close gap on airport terminal funding

LOVELAND — It appears that Fort Collins may come to the table and help close the funding gap to build a new terminal at Northern Colorado Regional Airport.

Airport manager Jason Licon told the airport commission Thursday that airport staff will appeal to the Fort Collins City Council next Tuesday and attempt to secure $1 million in funding to match a similar amount from Loveland. In exchange for the money, the airport would agree to a series of performance measures that Fort Collins had required before extending additional funding.

Licon expressed optimism that by March 7 — when the Fort Collins council would vote on second reading of an ordinance — the airport will have closed its funding gap for the terminal.  Fort Collins City Manager Kelly DiMartino, however, urged caution.

“Don’t get ahead of the March 7 council approval,” she advised. In other words, don’t start issuing construction documents until the funding process has reached conclusion.

Plans for a new terminal at the airport began several years ago. It was included in the airport’s master plan. The existing terminal was built in 1989 and was determined to be insufficient for existing and future traffic at the facility. Airport security, for example, requires a larger footprint than space allows.

Funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided the lion’s share of the funding for the project, which now is targeted at about $25 million. Federal funding would pay $21 million. The airport has reserves of $2 million. The remaining $2 million would be split between the airport’s owners, the cities of Loveland and Fort Collins.

The Loveland City Council approved paying its share. Fort Collins balked, but said it might consider participating if the airport agreed to performance measures.

As of Thursday, the terminal design is 60% complete — the second time it has reached that level. A larger version of the terminal needed to be scaled back when construction costs escalated during the pandemic.

Architects with Vaught Frye Larson Aronson told the commission Thursday that “we are at critical mass for the building.” It can’t be reduced further in size because of the space required by the Transportation Security Administration, baggage handling and other features unique to airport terminals. 

If the Fort Collins council approves using prior year reserves for its share of the funding, construction of the proposed 19,800-square-foot facility could begin as soon as July with completion anticipated in September 2024. The federal funds need to be spent by July 2024.

Key to the deal with Fort Collins are the performance measures, which are:

  • Maintaining the annual city share of the airport’s operations at 0% through 2027.
  • Building the new terminal to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — or LEED — silver standard.
  • Making a commitment to the arts of 1% of the non-federal cost of the project.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of the new terminal versus the old.
  • Raising the annual outbound passenger numbers from 18,000 a year to 33,000 a year by 2027.
  • Improving the accessibility of the new terminal versus the old.

As noted in the Fort Collins council packet for next Tuesday’s meeting, the deal comes with clawbacks and potential additional costs to the city of Loveland if the airport fails to perform as promised.

“If for any calendar year from 2024 and 2027 the city is obligated under its current airport agreement with Loveland to pay its share of the airport’s operation and maintenance costs, the city shall be entitled to a credit of up to $50,000 as a set-off to that obligation for each such year and the city of Loveland shall pay any shortfall resulting from the credit; (2) if any of the performance indicators for Silver LEED, public art commitment, building carbon footprint, and enhanced access are not achieved by Sept. 30, 2024, the city shall be repaid $150,000 of the capital contribution for each performance indicator not timely achieved; (3) if the airport’s annual outbound passengers served by air and bus are not 33,000 or more passengers for the calendar year 2027, the city shall be repaid $200,000.”

Those terms would need to be negotiated with the city of Loveland and included in a new intergovernmental agreement, the council packet said.

Fort Collins staff recommended approval of the agreement terms because it fits with the city’s strategic objectives of collaborating “with local and regional partners to achieve economic resilience in Northern Colorado”, and because it supports investment in regional transportation connections.

The floorplan shows where terminal elements such as TSA security would be located. NoCo Airport Commission documents

Source: BizWest

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