The Conway City Council approved an ordinance that would allow the city to borrow $7.5 million for short-term financing for all or a portion of construction of the city’s new airport in Lollie Bottoms, but the council agreed that a plan needs to be in place well before the balloon payment at the end of the term comes.
The council approved the loan during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday at the District Court building.
The municipal airport, Cantrell Field, cannot be sold until the new airport is operational; therefore, the city is asking for short-term financing of funds that will be repaid when the existing 151-acre airport property is sold.
Funds will be used for infrastructure improvements, city officials have said. Specific needs include a new access road, a terminal building, an offsite waterline, three hangars with a total of 54 bays, fueling facilities, a maintenance hangar, aviation fueling facilities, equipment to provide aviation aids, the buyout of the existing Cantrell Filed fixed base operation lease, the mitigation of nearby waterfowl and wildlife attractant areas, airport operation and maintenance equipment.
City attorney Mike Murphy pointed out that there is no way the city can renegotiate the remainder of the loan at the end of the term. The city will have to pay the remainder at that time.
"In a sense, this has been a bit of a bait and switch," said Conway Mayor Tab Townsell. "The federal government had pledged to be responsible for 95 percent with the state taking care of the other five percent. It has now come back that the federal part will only be 90 percent, and while the state says they can take care of the other 10 percent, they cannot do it right away."
Townsell said a partnership with the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics for the terminals had been set. He said that although the payments back off of the loan will begin in June, he would like to see plans in place well before the balloon payment is required, which would be in 60 months. Alderman Mark Vaught said that it would be important to find ways to increase the value of the Cantrell Field property in that time.
The projects involving the airport are in four stages with the new access road and terminal building on schedule for 2012, hangars including 30 bays, offsite waterline and fueling facilities scheduled for 2013, 12 more hangar bays set for 2014 and 2015. The estimated total of the work is $8.75 million.
In other business, the council approved an ordinance that allows an indoor firing range in several zoning districts, but only with a conditional use permit. The council also gave permission for the Conway Police Department to apply for a joint application with the Faulkner County Sheriff's Department for the JAG 2012 Grant. The funds awarded by this grant would be about $23,500, which would be split by the two departments. Should the grant be approved, the funds would be used for pole cameras, GPS tracking devices and an additional taser.