City officials are working with the Federal Aviation Administration to make sure everyone involved is on the same page regarding another appraisal that needs to be done on the St. Clair Regional Airport property that follows the federal agency’s specifications.
City Administrator Rick Childers told The Missourian that the FAA “provided us with very specific and detailed requirements for the appraisal to help get a clear idea of the value of the land at its ‘highest and best use.’”
Having another appraisal of the 80-acre parcel of land the airport sits on was the first of four points the FAA discussed with Mayor Ron Blum when he met with federal officials late last month in Washington, D.C., regarding the city’s process to close the facility.
The FAA’s other three points from the March 28 meeting were the city providing a more complete explanation of what the net benefit to aviation will be by closing the airport, providing a history of the facility itself and noting why it has been lagging financially compared to other area airports, and showing why the city has not had the financial resources to fund the airport.
The city previously had two appraisals done on the property, but the FAA is mandating the third one centered on the highest and best use of the land.
“We’re putting together the request for qualifications and proposals,” Childers said on Monday after he spoke to FAA representatives about the document late last week. “We sent them (FAA) what we put together and are waiting to hear back from them.”
Childers said the city and the FAA want to make sure they are in agreement on the analysis of “highest and best use” of the property before the request for qualifications/proposals be sent to real estate appraisers.
“There could be some tweaking before it’s sent out,” the city administrator said. “But it’s essentially cut and pasted directly from the info the FAA sent us.”
When the document’s specific language is approved by the FAA, which on Monday afternoon Childers said “should be any time,” the request will be sent to commercial appraisers.
“The city is closing St. Clair Regional Airport, an 80-acre tract adjacent to Interstate 44 and Missouri Highway 47 for redevelopment into private commercial property,” the request reads. “Pursuant to that act, we must submit the above-mentioned appraisal to the Federal Aviation Administration.”
The document goes on to say that the final report will be due to the city no later than May 15 but that proposals fully referencing qualifications are due no later than 4 p.m. this Thursday, April 12.
The request then lists the scope of work, the definition of market value and other pertinent items.
“The appraisers will respond to us with their costs and time involved,” Childers said. “The mayor and I then will sit down and review them.”
The St. Clair Board of Aldermen, during its most recent meeting earlier this month, supported spending money to have the third appraisal done on the property, but Childers said the amount probably won’t be enough. On April 2, the aldermen unanimously approved spending up to $1,500 on the appraisal of the airport property.
“I’m guessing the appraisal will be more than that,” Childers said. “If it is, after the mayor and I review the requests, we’ll bring back (to the board) what we feel is the best one at the best price for approval.”
During the April 2 meeting, Blum said, “the appraisal needs to be on proper FAA forms for them to formally approve it.”
Childers said during that board meeting that the FAA is requesting the third appraisal “on their forms and through their process.”
Blum discussed the local facility with members of the federal agency, including Catherine Lang, the FAA’s deputy associate administrator for airports, during the March 28 meeting that lasted almost two hours.
Afterward, Blum said he was optimistic about the possibility of closing the local airport.
“We now have a path for closure,” Blum told The Missourian after he returned from the nation’s capital. “The meeting went in the direction of progress.
“The FAA gave us four action items to bring us down the path of closure,” the mayor said. “We had a very good discussion on both sides. It won’t be easy, but I was very encouraged with how the meeting went.”
Also present at the meeting were Ron Price of QED Airport Aviation & Consultants, whom the city has retained to help with the closure process; Scott Gore, an FAA congressional liaison; Randall Fiertz, the FAA’s director of airport compliance; Kevin Willis, manager of the FAA compliance division; two FAA attorneys; another government compliance official; Clark Porter of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s staff; Peter Henry of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s staff; Chris Brown of U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s staff; and state Rep. Dave Hinson of St. Clair.
Participating in the meeting via telephone conference call were Childers, Jim Johnson of the FAA’s regional office in Kansas City and Jo Middleton of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s staff.
Blum traveled to Washington, D.C., as the next step in the city’s five-year attempt to close the airport located on the north side of the city between Interstate 44 and Highway 47. The St. Clair administration and Board of Aldermen want to shut down the facility to make room for proposed retail development on the site.
The city needs FAA approval to close the airport because it has used federal grants in the past — the latest being in 2006 — to make improvements to the facility.
The city’s books show the airport has been losing money at least as long as Blum has been in office. During the mayor’s first term, which started in 2007, his administration established a separate budget line item for the airport, and expenses have outpaced income every year at least that far back.
Several St. Clair-based entities have supported the city’s quest to close the airport. They include the R-XIII School District Board of Education, the St. Clair Fire Protection and Ambulance districts and the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce.