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Consultant discusses former airport property

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“I personally think that you can argue that you have met your obligations of $950,000,” says Dennis Corsi, president of Armstrong Consultants, about the FAA terms for release of the former municipal airport land. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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The City of Roswell probably can argue to the Federal Aviation Administration that it has met all the requirements of the FAA concerning the release of the former municipal airport property in northwest Roswell to the city, an airport consultant told local officials.

Dennis Corsi, president of Armstrong Consultants, talked Thursday to members of the City of Roswell Airport Commission about a number of topics involving the Roswell International Air Center and the airfield. Armstrong is the city’s consultant regarding airport construction, long-term financial and capital planning, and FAA grants and filings.

Corsi discussed capital project priorities, airfield development plans, funding mechanisms and future construction of a wide-body modern hangar. He also presented information about the process involved in requesting that the FAA determine that the city’s obligations have been met for the release of the former airport site.

“In general, my understanding is, and I will just say this in general, the city has been subsidizing the airport for the last 50, 60 years,” said Corsi, who prefaced his statements by saying he is not a lawyer and cannot speak for the FAA. “If the city has subsidized to the airport to the extent that it far exceeds that allocation (the amount the FAA previously stipulated was due for the former municipal airport property), there is certainly an argument to be made that you have fulfilled your obligation.”

Before passenger air service relocated in 1975 to the Roswell International Air Center — the former Walker Air Force Base — the municipal airport was on College Boulevard west of Montana Avenue, with the air terminal building across the street from what is now the Cielo Grande Recreation Area. That former air terminal building was demolished in 2015.

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In 1968, the municipal airport property was given to the city. In 1969, the FAA outlined the terms the city would have to meet to free the use of the land and remove any encumbrances on funds derived from it.

“It is really a simple written request,” Corsi said about the process. “It is all the attachments that go with it that can become cumbersome.”

Corsi said that, while the FAA did not make any demands for payments or transfers of money in 1969, it mandated that any future proceeds from the sale or lease of the property would have to be used to fund current airport operations, development or maintenance until at least $572,893 had been given to the airport. Once that amount had been reached, the city was required to funnel 50 percent of any revenue derived from the former airport property to the current airport, with a minimum of an additional $380,401 specified by the release terms. In total, then, the city was required to provide at least $953,294 to airport operations, maintenance or development.

Now, according to commission members and city staff, two significant questions exist as they pursue the possibility of working with FAA officials to free the land for future development and untie it from current airport operations. One is whether the FAA will consider the amounts stated in 1969 to be the amounts required as of 2018. The other is whether the federal agency will credit the city’s long-standing provision of services and funds to the Roswell International Air Center towards the payment requirements.

Corsi said FAA officials would have to answer the first question, but he gave his opinion that the city’s provisions of fire crews, law enforcement, maintenance crews and other such services since 1969  — as well as its use of city funds for hangar improvements and other capital projects — should be able to count toward the release terms.

“I personally think that you can argue that you have met your obligations of $950,000,” he said.

According to preliminary financial information presented by City Manager Joe Neeb at the Airport Advisory Commission meeting, the value of city services to the Roswell International Air Center since 2013 has been in excess of $800,000 a year. More than $346,000 each year has not been reimbursed by the airport funds.

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh also mentioned that the city used its own capital funds to pay $1 million toward the $4.6 million roof repair and fire suppression system upgrade for the airport hangar leased to Dean Baldwin Painting.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.