Almost exactly a year ago, Airport Director Roy Sieger appeared before the Flagler County Commission to talk about a $6.5 million terminal building that’s been in the works for several years, and was due for construction in 2021. Sieger asked for a year’s delay so the airport could build 42 additional T-hangars, which are in demand and would make the airport extra money.
“I’m not coming here asking you for money. I’m bringing you a solution,” Sieger told county commissioners. “As much as it kills me, and as you all know how long I’ve been waiting to build this brand new GA terminal facility,” he said, “I want to delay it one year, because what I want to do is build three more rows of T hangers. T hangers are moneymakers, okay? T hangars are big moneymakers. Right now we have 56 T hangars at the airport. This design is to build 42 more T hangers.”
He said the additional T-hangars would bring in an extra $212,000 a year in rent. The transportation Department would write a $117,000 design grant, which would take three months. “Once we get that, we go out to bid, we’ll get T hangars built in nine to 10 months.” He said it would be an “80-20” deal, with the airport paying 20 percent of the cost, or $560,000, and the Department of Transportation picking up 80 percent. That would make the DOT’s share $2.8 million, for a total cost of $3.36 million.
He said taxpayers would not have to foot any part of the bill, since even the local share would be paid through airport funds. The airport is run as an “enterprise fund” within government. It is intended and expected to generate its own revenue and pay its own way without intruding on the taxpayer supported general fund. But the notion that taxpayers don’t foot any part of the bill is inaccurate: the Florida Department of Transportation’s grant is entirely made up of taxpayer dollars, just not “local” ones.
“My focus is to get this done in a year,” Sieger said at the time. “That’s going to be my focus, that way next July, which is the funding year for FDOT, we’re going back and asking for the additional money for the general aviation terminal, which they said they will do.”
That was a year ago.
Today, the County Commission, with scant discussion, approved the latest step in making the T-hangars a reality. The total cost of T-Hangar construction, plus such things as “Construction Administration and Observation Services,” is now $6.5 million. (The T-hangar construction contracted to S.E. Cline Construction by itself is $6.2 million.)
Instead of an 80-20 deal, the transportation department may pick up 90 percent of the cost. “They are actually leaning towards doing this project at 90-10, which means airport only has to pay $650,000, which is huge,” Sieger told the commission at a January meeting, when he was updating them about the spiraling costs. He did not mention that it was almost $100,000 more than the airport’s original, only that he would get a loan to cover the cost.
The transportation did come through on the 90-10 split, but with a caveat: it could only fund $4.6 million of the project right now, and would strive to fund the $1.3 million balance. But the county could be on the hook for that balance if the state doesn’t come through: “If the additional funding is not received from FDOT, the County will be responsible for covering the difference,” a memo to the commission on today’s action states. Meanwhile, the county is on the hook for it, since the commission approved loaning the money out of the county’s general fund, along with the $654,000 local share–a total of $1.92 million. So for now, the general fund is assuming 29 percent of the cost, not 10 percent, with fingers crossed to recover the lion share of that from the state.
The numbers raised a concern from Commissioner Dave Sullivan this evening, and not just regarding the money for the hangars: the commission also approved a design contract for a new south-side library, with big questions remaining about the source of the eventual money to build the library. “There still is some question about how much of our own funds as opposed to grants that will be used to carry them out,” Sullivan said. “So I just wanted to make a case that for instance on this one,” meaning the hangars, ” that we do a good follow up, we don’t want to spend any more money out of our reserves or out of our budget than we have to. So some of these we’re still involved getting some additional grant money, and we want to make sure that happens.”
Pushing for the T-hangars, Sieger a year ago said there were 90 people on a waiting list for hangar space. By last January, he said the list had grown to 122, with a waiting time of two to two and a half years.
Meanwhile, the terminal building will be pushed off to next year. That project’s costs has also risen sharply. “The terminal building all in, when you have the building, the parking lot, the roundabout, you’re talking about a $10 million project. The building by itself is $7 million,” Sieger said in January. “Unfortunately, we have to put off our grand terminal building, but what I’m thinking is it’s only going to be put out another year.” (That was about nine months after saying that it was to be put off a year.)