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County To Consider $20 Million Loan For ILM Terminal Expansion

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Aug 12, 2019
New Hanover County commissioners are slated to consider a $20 million loan to help keep the Wilmington International Airport's terminal expansion and renovation project moving forward.

County commissioners will consider Monday adopting an ordinance for the capital project and authorize the county manager to negotiate and execute an interlocal agreement with the airport for payment of debt proceeds and repayment of the loan, according to county agenda documents.

If approved, the agreement would authorize a loan for the airport up to $20 million for the project as part of the county’s upcoming borrowing. The funds would come through an amendment to the county's budget for the current fiscal year.

ILM's terminal expansion project is currently in part two of a three-contract project.

Work for the first portion of the project, which improved a portion of the TSA baggage system, was completed in March. Work on the second project now underway will add about 15,000 square feet of space to the terminal.

Work for the third contract, which is expected to cost around $38 million and will add 68,000 square feet of space to the terminal and renovate the existing terminal, is pending. A call for bids on the project went out Aug. 8, according to Granseur Dick, ILM's planning and development director. 

The airport did not receive sufficient bids for the project, Dick said Monday, adding that the project will open for rebidding Aug. 20. The last portion of the project is slated for completion in 2022.

The $20 million in funding through the county would help keep the project going, airport officials said.

"Our goal is to keep this project moving forward. Approval of the loan by New Hanover County will enable us to do so," said Robert Campbell, ILM's finance director, in an email Monday.

"Ultimately, the terminal expansion project will be funded using a combination of federal, state and local sources. The funds will become available to the airport over the course of multiple years and a loan may be necessary to bridge the gap between the time construction payments are due and the time the funds are received," he said. "Based on our most recent construction cost estimates, $20 million is the maximum loan amount that would be needed to cover any such timing differences."
 
If the airport were to receive any future state aviation funds, those funds could be used to pay down this debt, Campbell said, adding that there are several potential sources of funding for the project.

"We anticipate using FAA entitlement funding, FAA discretionary funding, passenger facility charge revenue, North Carolina state aviation funds and cash on hand. Not all of those sources have been confirmed and some, if approved, will be received over the course of several years," Campbell said. 

The state legislature previously approved nearly $12 million dollars over two years for the Wilmington International Airport. Officials at the time said most of those funds were being used for the terminal expansion project. Funds were also used to purchase and install a new jet bridge at the airport last year, as it readied for United Airlines.

This wouldn’t be the first time the airport has borrowed funds through the county.

County documents state the airport previously borrowed funds in 2003 for airport improvements; in 2008 for construction of ILM’s customs building; and most recently in 2013 for the rental car service center build.

The airport has been repaying debt to the county, but debt for the 2008 ad 2013 projects is still outstanding, according to county documents.

“The county has analyzed its debt capacity and believe we have adequate capacity to absorb this additional debt. Staff recommends accounting for this project in a new capital project fund,” stated county documents.

County commissioners were scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Monday at the Andre’ Mallette Training Center at the New Hanover County Government Center.
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