County renews pursuit of new air terminal

Two years after Kalamazoo County halted plans to build a new air terminal, Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport officials are looking to build a larger terminal primarily with federal funds.

Airport officials will ask the Federal Aviation Administration for funds to build a new $39.4 million air terminal project, Airport Director Cliff Moshoginis said Wednesday.

The latest airport proposal is nearly a third larger than a $30 million airport-improvement project approved in 2003.

The earlier plan was placed on hold by the county Board of Commissioners in June 2005 because of concerns over high construction bids.

The latest proposal calls for a terminal that would total 122,769 square feet, compared to the approximately 93,000-square-foot terminal planned in 2003, Moshoginis said.

The larger terminal is proposed because of projected passenger use and security upgrades, he said.

Moshoginis said the airport's Aeronautics Board of Trustees, the body that oversees the airport, has given him the go-ahead to pursue federal funding for the project. Beyond that, no design or other project specifics have been finalized, he emphasized.

"There are a lot of ifs right now," Moshoginis said. "That number (the proposed cost of the project) is a model number based off square footage of a building.

"All today's decision (shows) was, this (existing) terminal is past its useful life," he said. "We are going to look at constructing a new terminal. We're going to try to get funding based off of this. That does not mean it's going to be built. That's very important."

Moshoginis said the size of the air terminal will be determined by the amount of federal funding secured. Currently, the airport has $18 million in federal and state funds and revenue from passenger fees to fund an air terminal project, he said.

The 2003 plan called for airport officials to float up to $20 million in bonds to pay for terminal improvements. Those bonds were to be paid for with passenger fees and airport funds. The project's remaining costs were to be covered with federal funds.

The Evergreen, Colo.-based Boyd Group, consultants hired by airport officials, projects the number of passengers flying from the airport will grow to 313,378 in 2025, Moshoginis said.

That number is higher than the FAA's projection of 278,042 passengers flying out of Kalamazoo in 2025, he said.

In 2006, the airport recorded 207,159 passengers flying out of Kalamazoo, continuing a decline from a high of 282,348 in 1998, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

In reviewing the airport's funding request, federal officials will be looking at the terminal design, cost-benefit analysis, cash flow and whether passenger projections for the airport are reasonable, Moshoginis said. Airport officials provided no timeline on when their funding application will be submitted.

The aeronautics board had hired a consultant to detail possible airport improvements under funding options ranging from $12 million to $24 million. Those options have been ruled out for now.

"There has been a lot of study (about), can we modify the existing terminal or expand it," Aeronautics board Chairman Gilbert Collver said. "All the answers come back that it is not the most practical and efficient way to go about it, in addition to fact that you have an existing building that needs to be renovated.

"As soon as you start renovating it, you also have to bring it up to code, and that proves to be a very expensive and very time-consuming process," Collver said.