Williston will be able to use money the FAA had earmarked for land acquisition for the city’s new airport toward its airport terminal and other areas of the project.
At a special meeting to consider closing out the FAA’s land grant, City Administrator David Tuan explained how the situation came about.
The FAA’s initial land grant totaled $27 million, which was intended to be a ceiling on the amount the federal agency would make toward siting costs. These included not just land acquisition but site consultation and design engineering fees.
Williston ended up not needing quite as much as expected in the way of consulting and design fees. However, the land itself ended up costing a significant amount more than the market appraisal, which was $5,500 an acre.
“We all knew we had two tasks,” Mayor Howard Klug said. “One was to buy the land and the other was to be fair with the landowners. We always said we were going to be fair to the landowners out there. The price we finally paid reflects those two philosophies that we had.”
In general, however, the FAA will not pay much more than the market appraisal for the land — but in this case they have agreed to pay 61 percent of the acquisition costs, for a total of $8.4 million.
That leaves a remaining $18.6 million in the land grant. That money is available this budget year, and the FAA has now agreed it can go toward other areas of the project, including building the airport terminal.
“They don’t typically do that,” Tuan told Commissioners.
However, the timeline for getting this leftover money apportioned to the project is tight.
“Their fiscal year ends in September and they want to get this paperwork done right away,” Tuan said.
Closing the grant out will take some time, but if it can be done in time, there are bits and pieces of funding left over from other projects that might be directed toward the airport project, Tuan suggested.
Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl made a motion to accept the agreement and authorize the city administrator to enter into negotiations with the FAA to secure the remainder of the grant for eligible projects. Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk seconded, and the motion was unanimously approved by roll call vote.
Tuan said after the meeting there was no way to direct money remaining in the land grant to the city’s project without drawing up a new grant.
“All the participation from the FAA and other agencies is very encouraging,” he added. “They want to see this completed on time and in a manner that improves the quality of air travel and that’s obvious in the support they are giving. The support is not typically set up to be this flexible, but they are coming forward to partner with the city in a very encouraging way.”
Early bids sought
The city also took a look at its bidding process for the runway and taxiway at the new airport, and authorized an early bidding time frame that will put bid opening on July 12.
That has several advantages, Tuan said. “We can take advantage of a good bidding climate, and get considered from FAA for funding early.”
An early bid process also leaves time to rebid the project if necessary, Tuan added. The bid packages will also allow companies to bid the work both as both an overall project and in phases. That gives the city the option to approve just the first phase and rebid later phases if that seems advantageous.
Commissioners unanimously approved seeking bids on the early timetable.
Redevelopment of Sloulin moving
Concurrent with progress on the new airport, the city is also making progress on redevelopment of the old site.
A public meeting on the Sloulin Field redevelopment project is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Williston Area Recreation Center.
Cardon Global Development will discuss the public input meeting held in February, including polling results, and explain how the information will be used in the redevelopment project.
A third public input meeting is set for Sept. 6 to continue the public discussion of what the project could and should be in the eyes of Williston residents.
Cardon is serving as the city’s representative on the airport relocation, and as such will be sharing updates on the $250 million project.
“There is much to achieve between completing the new airport on time and under budget, while at the same time preparing for the decommissioning of Sloulin Field and transferring all aviation-related operations to the new XWA location,” Cardon CEO Don Cardon said. “We are excited to share the most recent updates concerning the status of the new XWA Airport, as well as how the redevelopment planning for Sloulin Field is progressing.”
Construction of the new airport’s terminal could begin as soon as mid-July, Cardon said in a press release. The 115,000-square-foot facility will be located on 1,500 acres northwest of Williston and feature an escalator, full-service restaurant, gift shop and several lounges for arriving passengers.
“This is an exciting time for Williston, and from an economic impact standpoint, nothing will catapult the growth of our city like a new international airport,” Williston Economic Development Executive Director Shawn Wenko said. “Our citizens should be excited and proud, and I hope they will come out next week and learn more about the progress that is being made.