With a unanimous vote followed by the swoop of a pen, the Missouri Department of Transportation can take St. Clair off of its list of entities vying for recent state airport improvement funds.
During the board of aldermen’s most recent regular meeting, Mayor Ron Blum and City Attorney Kurt Voss were given the authority to sign agreements for the transfer of entitlements with MoDOT’s Aviation Division.
In a nutshell, that simply means that since St. Clair is hoping to close its regional airport upon approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, it told MoDOT it doesn’t want to be in the running to receive federal aviation funding from calendar years 2008, 2009 and 2010. City officials could have applied to receive up to $150,000 from each of those years for airport improvement projects.
In April, City Administrator Rick Childers received a letter from Amy Ludwig, MoDOT’s administer of aviation, saying St. Clair’s window for applying for these funds from the three years is coming to an end.
“As of today, our office shows you have an unexpended balance of $150,000 in 2008 funds, $150,000 in 2009 funds and $150,000 in 2010 funds,” Ludwig’s letter reads. “If you are not able to move forward with en eligible project before Sept. 30, 2013, please sign and complete the enclosed ‘Agreement for Transfer of Entitlements’ forms and return to our office no later than June 1.
“Completing and submitting this form will allow MoDOT to fund priority projects during this construction season that are ready to go and will ensure that all NPE (non-priority entitlement funds) is utilized at Missouri airports.”
Childers said meeting the deadline will keep the funds in Missouri and not allow the FAA to use them on projects elsewhere.
“This will allow MoDOT to utilize the funds within the Missouri airport system,” he said.
Childers also reminded the aldermen that the available money is part of a grant program, “but it is a competitive grant program.”
In order to receive any of the funding, the city still would have to apply, just like any other airport sponsor. There is no guarantee funds would be directed to St. Clair, even if city officials wanted them.
The city continues to await word from the FAA on whether it will allow the 80-acre airport located on the north side of the city to be closed. City officials want to use the property for retail development.
Closure must be granted by the FAA because St. Clair has used some of the grant money in the past, as late as 2006, to make improvements to the facility.
Just over a month ago, Childers sent more correspondence to the FAA in regards to the St. Clair Regional Airport and the city’s request to close it.
Childers also sent information to Ludwig at the end of March in response to the latest round of requests from MoDOT and the FAA regarding airport compliance.
He also asked her to forward any of the information “as appropriate” to the FAA.
“We’re pleased to have been able to comply with what are hopefully the final requirements toward closing the airport, and very much appreciate the assistance we’ve received in this process from MoDOT Aviation,” Childers told The Missourian at the time.
In late December, both MoDOT and the FAA sent the city information regarding various operations and maintenance items with recommendation for corrections. The FAA said in its correspondence that “the agency will not consider closing St. Clair Regional Airport ... until the city corrects deficiencies at the airport.”
“Following is the response of the city to these aggregate correspondences,” Childers told Ludwig in his March 26 letter.
Childers then mentioned each compliance item noted by MoDOT and the FAA and that every one of them has been addressed and/or repaired. The list includes several maintenance items as well as creating a separate airport bank account and the city paying the airport rent for a lift station on the property.
Childers also said the tenant hangar rental rate dispute between the pilots and the city has been resolved.
“The city of St. Clair once again requests release from all past grant obligations ... and requests closure of St. Clair Regional Airport and authorization to sell the lands,” Childers wrote to Ludwig at the end of his letter. “As always, thanks for all of your assistance.”
The FAA’s December letter came in response to a letter Mayor Ron Blum sent to the federal agency last August specifically asking that it allow closure of the 80-acre facility.
MoDOT Not Opposed
The city’s packet of information sent to MoDOT last month came on the heels of the city receiving notice from the state agency that it is “not opposed” to closing the airport.
In late March, Childers and Mayor Ron Blum received a copy of a letter from MoDOT saying it will not stand in the way of the city and its quest to close the facility.
Interim Director David B. Nichols sent the letter to the Federal Aviation Administration on March 22 stating that “because the city has made its desire clear, MoDOT will not oppose the city’s request to close the airport.”
The MoDOT letter was sent by Nichols to Jim Johnson, Airports Division manager of the FAA’s Central Region in Kansas City. After it makes the statement about not opposing the city’s request to close the airport, Nichols states, “However, all federal airport closure requirements must be met by the city.”