(3/11/2010) Q: Do you have an official legal opinion from our Corporation Counsel and from the FAA that specifically and unequivocally states we are responsible to pay them back if we close Tweed? If so, can you please send a copy? How much would we exactly owe them? How long must we keep the airport open until that debt is forgiven(if it is forgiven), and under what terms is that debt forgiven? If we closed the airport, on what schedule of repayments would we have to pay the FAA back? What happens if we don't pay it back (refuse to pay it back)? Why does this liability not show up in any Budget or related documents such as the bond offering statement? If we owe something, even a huge number, we should have it spelled out in detail so as to make informed decisions and if we owe them something, this is a liability that must be reported, no?
A: The approximately $29M in FAA Grants are not liabilities of the City. These grants were made for the development of the Airport to the Airport Authority. If the Airport does not continue to operate as per the Grant Agreement the Grants would need to be repaid just like any other Grant that the City defaulted upon.
The requirement to keep the airport open appears in the Grant Assurances attached to every grant issued by FAA to the Authority. Grant Assurances are taken very seriously. Grant Assurances have been provided to the Board of Aldermen many times.
Closing an airport listed on the national system requires direct personal approval from the Secretary of Transportation, on advice of the FAA Administrator in Washington, D.C. To the best of our knowledge, voluntary closing of an airport with scheduled commercial service has never occurred. As a result, there are no precedents for questions about timing and forgiveness of debt.
If the FAA did approve a request to close the Airport, the Airport must pay the FAA the value of the remaining life of FAA funded improvements or reinvest the amount into another airport in the local system. The Airport would be required to reimburse the FAA or reinvest tin another airport an amount equal to the pro-rata share of the current fair market value of the land.