- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Discussion continued Monday about Moscow’s role in funding improvements to the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport.

A City Council advisory committee considered a resolution describing “restrictions and parameters” of its $2.5 million match for the runway realignment project.

Total project cost is estimated to range between $89 million and $119 million. The majority of the money is coming from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Localities are required to provide matching funds between $7.2 million and nearly $9.7 million — whatever amount adds up to 8.125 percent of the final cost. It is expected that Pullman will also provide $2.5 million.

Moscow has already committed to provide the money in $500,000 installments over five fiscal years. Councilors approved this long-term financing plan on July 7.

This latest resolution spells out use of the funds.

“Five-sixths of the City Council are confident” about the airport project, said Councilor Walter Steed. “I’m not. I’m sorry.”

That’s because, he said, he heard one of the counties’ contribution would “be token” and that some of the other stakeholders didn’t allocate funds during their recent budget approval cycles.

“Ed Schweitzer could write a check, but he hasn’t,” Steed said.

Moscow and Pullman are the project co-sponsors, and Pullman is acting as the project bookkeeper by holding funds and paying bills as they come due from a separate account, said Moscow City Supervisor Gary Riedner.

Other stakeholders, Latah and Whitman counties, Washington State University and University of Idaho, the Port of Whitman County and several large private companies, such as Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, that use the airport frequently, are being asked to come up with the remaining amount by representatives of both cities and the airport.

Councilor Jim Boland was watching the proceedings from the audience and decided to join the discussion.

The others “are hanging back to see what they need to put in,” he said. “Schweitzer is a businessman.”

“There is some validity there,” Councilor Wayne Krauss said about Steed’s concerns. “This council is working on good faith that these partners are going to step up with a commitment.”

Moscow officials said previously the city would move $500,000 to the Pullman airport account on Aug. 1, during this fiscal year. Then they would add another $500,000 on Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

Steed asked whether the payment date could happen later during fiscal year 2016 rather than on the very first day.

“That’s a half-million we won’t make interest on,” Steed said. “They don’t need it yet. They have no invoices to pay.”

“It’s to let our partners know we have the capacity,” Riedner replied. “There’s no intent by Pullman to take advantage of our investment.”

The idea is to provide incentives for these partners to commit, he also said.

Steed later pointed to a section of the resolution that says the FAA “has required Airport to relocate and realign the Airport runway.” He said the resolution should also note that the requirement is specifically aimed at retaining commercial airline service and not other uses.

The councilors will consider the resolution when they meet Aug. 3.

Residential uses downtown

The committee also recommended the full council consider permitting ground floor residential uses within the Central Business Zone.

Doing so would allow owners of some properties there — who already have ground floor residential on their business district property — to obtain a conditional use permit for this as a legal nonconforming use.

Otherwise, issues could arise if such a property were destroyed or sold. With the proposed amendment, it could be rebuilt or continue to be used as residential, said Michael Ray, a city planner.

The conditional use permit would provide proof to loan and insurance companies that the use is allowed at that location, he said.

The council will hold a hearing on the proposed amendment at 7 p.m. on Aug. 3.

Terri Harber can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to [email protected]

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(c)2015 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

Visit the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho) at www.dnews.com

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