City Council gets airport bond proposal

Tulsa International Airport's fiscal and physical future is dependent on the City Council's approval Thursday of a $75 million Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust revenue bond resolution, officials say.

Bond proceeds would fund about $50 million in passenger terminal improvements, the $6 million purchase of 11.8 acres of land west of the terminal now occupied by Spar tan College of Aeronautics and Technology, the realignment of the airport perimeter roadway and refinancing of previous bond issues.

Airport trustees approved the bond resolution and Spartan land purchase Aug. 9.

City Council approval of the bond resolution would permit airport officials to sell the bonds, which would be redeemed with airport-generated fees and revenue.

Under normal circumstances, council approval would seem to be routine. But a long-standing dispute over the $40 million aircraft noise mitigation program in residential neighborhoods south and east of the airport has clouded the outlook for the revenue bonds, officials say.

Residents of the Layman Van Acres and Moses neighborhoods, which include 550 homes -- only 160 of which are participating in the noise program -- want the airport to purchase their homes.

The residents have found an ad vocate in City Council Chairman Roscoe Turner, whose 3rd District includes the airport and surrounding neighborhoods.

Turner, who could not be reached for comment, has urged airport trustees to include the Layman Van Acres property owners in the noise program.

Turner has said his vote to approve the $75 million bond resolution could be dependent upon the airport board's inclusion in the noise program of the Layman Van Acres property acquisitions.

But after conferring with the Federal Aviation Administration, airport executives were advised that amending the noise program to include the Layman Van Acres home acquisitions should wait until October. That is when FAA funding is authorized and new noise program guidelines approved, the FAA said.

During the last six years, the noise mitigation program has or is in the process of reducing aircraft noise in 1,100 of 1,700 properties experiencing noise levels above 65 decibels.

Property owners are given options of property buyouts, sound insulation, purchase of noise easements or a sales assistance payment to compensate homeowners if they sell their home at less than fair market value.

As of July, the noise program has included five home buyouts, 68 easement purchase payments, 51 sales assistances and 809 sound insu lations. About 200 homes are expected to be sound-insulated between now and the end of the year, officials said.

Airports Director Jeff Mulder said updating the noise program to include the Layman Van Acres properties could take one to two years. It could include new aircraft noise surveys, public hearings, a six-month publication notice in the Federal Register and a FAA review, which could take six months.

"There are 605 remaining homeowners who have been waiting (for noise insulation work or alternatives) since 2000," Mulder wrote in a recent memo to City Council.

If the noise program was halted to revise it to include the Layman Van Acres and Moses properties, the remaining homeowners in the program would have to wait two or three years while the program is updated, Mulder said.

The noise program is receiving $6 million to $7 million per year in FAA grants, Mulder said, and is expected to be completed at a cost of up to $61 million.

Including the acquisition of 550 homes in the Layman Van Acres and Moses neighborhoods in the noise program could cost at least as much as the existing program -- from $65 million to $80 million -- and take from 15 to 24 years to complete, Mulder said.

D.R. Stewart 581-8451