San Luis Obispo County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved applying for a $20 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to help pay for a new terminal at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.
The total cost of the project will be $30 million, county airports manager Kevin Bumen said. He plans to return to the Board of Supervisors in May to get final approval to move ahead with the project, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2015.
Bumen said the vote by the supervisors was an important step.
“We are out of the gate now,” he said. “Our job now is to get ready to bring the project back to the board for approval in May.”
The additional $10 million needed to completely fund the project will come from sources including a variety of airport fees and $3 million in matching funds from the county. Supervisors will have to decide whether to pay the $3 million in advance or pay $250,000 to $300,000 per year over 10 years.
Several supervisors, including Caren Ray and Bruce Gibson, said they were concerned about the county taking on additional debt to fund its portion of the project. Gibson recommended exploring the idea of setting up a “Friends of the Airport” group that would raise money for the project from the business community, similar to Friends of the Library groups that have successfully raised money for libraries in Cambria and Atascadero.
All agreed that the county needs to move forward with the project. The airport is an essential part of the services the county provides, said Supervisor Adam Hill.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold agreed, saying details about how the terminal will be financed can be worked out later. "To me, this is a no-brainer today," she said.
The existing terminal is 30 years old and is too small to meet the future needs of the airport, Bumen said. It also does not meet federal safety standards because it is too close to the runways. The new terminal will be built farther back from the runway near a Cal Fire station on the property.