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FAA tells airport to return money

AIRPORT DISTRICT -- As Burbank-Glendale- Pasadena Airport Authority

commissioners hashed through items during their closed- session

meeting Monday, a fax was handed to them -- sent by Federal Aviation

Administration Administrator Marion Blakey -- asking for repayment of

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about $40 million in grants earmarked for a new terminal.

The federal agency does not want the money tied up when “there’s

no clear indication that a terminal project is forthcoming,” and

asked that a plan to return the funds be submitted within 30 days,

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Airport Authority President Chris Holden said.

The Airport Authority must have the plan to the FAA by June 4.

The FAA had previously set a 60-day deadline for repaying the

money or coming up with a plan to build a new terminal. Airport

officials responded April 21 by asking for an extension, which

Monday’s letter gives them.

The airport could draw some money from its reserve fund to repay

the FAA, Burbank Airport Commissioner Don Brown said. That fund is

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projected to drop to $38 million in the coming fiscal year, almost

50% less than its previous balance of $71 million. Some of the

federal money might not have to be returned if it was used for

eligible improvements, Brown said.

The airport spent its own money and the FAA’s grant money in 1999

to buy the 130-acre former Lockheed B-6 property for $86 million. It

had planned to move the terminal there.

Other possibilities for a repayment plan include selling or

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leasing the B-6 land, but commissioners said they need time to

consider their options.

“Built into that letter are a whole lot of questions that we have

not had a chance to address ... [including] how much of a repayment

we could live with without depleting all of the reserves of the

airport,” Glendale Airport Commissioner Gerald Briggs said.

Years of disagreement and litigation between the city and the

airport have stalled construction of a new facility, primarily based

on local demands to control noise by restricting growth. While the

city had hoped to tie a new terminal to a mandatory overnight curfew,

the FAA said it will not link the two.

“As you know, the FAA supports the goal of relocating the

terminal,” Blakey wrote in her letter. “Should the Airport Authority

receive all necessary local approvals for a new terminal and develop

a firm construction timetable, the FAA is prepared to discuss future

[grant] support for the project.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) was among legislators and local

officials who met with Blakey in Washington, D.C., to ask the FAA for

direction with the development of the airport.

“Whatever incentive the FAA may have [had] to provide noise

restrictions ... I think that the leverage is unquestionably

diminished,” Schiff said of Blakey’s letter.

City Manager Mary Alvord agreed that the prospect of losing the

best-possible site for a new terminal means the city is also losing

its best bargaining chip for a curfew.

The Airport Authority will hold a special public meeting at 9 a.m.

Monday at the airport’s Skyroom to discuss how it will respond to the

FAA’s letter.


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