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Local airport project advances

Economic groups agree to help service debts

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Posted: Saturday, April 7, 2018 10:01 pm

The project to build a new terminal at the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport has reached a major milestone.

Airport Director Bryant Walker said Friday that the Brownsville Community Improvement Corp. and Greater Brownsville Incentives Corp. this month both committed to assist with debt service on the bonds the city will have to issue to finance the $30 million-plus cost of the project, pending approval by the city commission.

Although details are still being negotiated, GBIC has agreed to pay about $945,000 a year to service the bond debt and BCIC $365,000 a year, he said. Also, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board has dedicated $1.2 million for utilities and the airport will be contributing about $250,000 annually, Walker said.

“Even though we run at a deficit, we have funds that the (Federal Aviation Administration) provides to us through fees that we charge,” he said. “Those we’ll be able to be dedicate to bond funding. It’s basically a big team of people that are all contributing to making it work out.”

The FAA approved a $12.7 million grant for the terminal project last year. Site work has already begun on the project, which will entail constructing a new, 85,000-square-foot facility about 150 feet west of the current one, which will then be demolished. The current terminal was built in 1971 and later updated.

“It’s exciting news,” Walker said. “The only thing left now is to take everybody’s offer to the commission to approve it, and the commission is already aware of everything that’s going on.”

The effort to build a new terminal spans many years. It has been a top priority for Walker since becoming airport director in 2016, as it was for his predecessor, Larry Brown.

“Everybody involved has really pushed for it,” Walker said. “The mayor has definitely been pushing it for years. It took a Herculean effort by all involved to make it happen, including previous administrations.”

The city will meet next week with a financial consultant to discuss timing on issuance of the bonds, he said, adding that bid release on the project was imminent. Design on the new terminal is complete other than cosmetic details, Walker said.

Bids will be accepted for 45 days, after which the city will review the bids for 30 days, he said. A bid likely will be awarded in mid-June and the contractor will be given 28 to 30 months to complete construction, demolition, repaving of the old site and erection of new jet bridges, Walker said.

The entire project should be complete by mid-2020, though the new terminal will open a few months earlier, he said.

“We’re going to put (passengers) on a bus to get them to the planes,” Walker said. “We’ll do that for four months until the jet bridges and repavement are complete. We’ll be using the new terminal in late 2019.”

BCIC Executive Director Rebeca Castillo said the funding decision came after “several productive conservations” with the city. Pending successful negotiation of the agreement, she said, the airport project will have a positive economic impact on the city.

Gil Salinas, GBIC interim executive director, said that in exchange for supporting the terminal project GBIC will receive 50 acres of green-field industrial sites off Billy Mitchell Boulevard for $1 a year for 50 years.

“As we told city airport officials, we’re not experts in operating airports, however we do know a thing about place marketing, developing sites and recruiting businesses,” he said.

Salinas said GBIC plans to pursue a light-industrial, mixed-use-development strategy for the property.

“There’s already a solid base of industrial clients on Billy Mitchell, and with Greyhound’s new assembly plant in the area, our plans for additional developments will truly enhance the proposed new airport terminal,” he said. “We both get an opportunity of crafting a new front door for our city that will welcome our travelers with a pro-business landscape.”



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