Newport Airport Manager Gene Cossey told the Newport City Council Monday night that NOAA would not have chosen Newport unless it knew that it had a viable airport nearby. But he added that the Newport Airport is in bad need of a runway upgrade if it’s to remain the viable airport NOAA and other growing scientific based operations now rely on. Total cost of needed upgrades, including long festering drainage and asphalt problems, $9 million.
The council swallowed hard and began wonder where all that money will come from. Cossey said the Federal Aviation Administration will put up 90%, but that the city will have to cough up the remaining 10%. Cossey said the city has applied for a grant from a state lottery-backed funding source, Oregon Connect, to cover part of that 10%. He said the Oregon Connect evaluation of the project has given him encouragement that the city has a good shot at winning a sizeable amount. However, in the end, he said, the city will still be on the hook for up to a half million dollars. Cossey said the state grant will hinge, in no small way, on the city’s expressed commitment that it will come up with the additional half-million. That’s when the council’s hard swallowing got louder.
City Councilor David Allen, who never likes to be boxed into a corner, set the tone of the discussion. Although Cossey was looking for a slam-dunk commitment for the city to pay whatever is left over after the Connect Oregon money is put on the table, Allen said the best he could do was to endorse a commitment that the city would “make every effort to find the funding through the city’s normal budgetary process.” It was at that point that City Finance Director David Marshal chimed in saying that the council could budget half the amount in the 2012-13 budget year, and then pledge the second half for the 2013-14 budget year when the actual airport upgrades would begin.
And that’s pretty much where they left it. Cossey got the backing of the council to proceed with orchestrating the FAA grant of 90% along with the Connect Oregon application for 5%, leaving the city on the hook for about a half million dollars for which, if he can pull it off, the city will enjoy $8.5 million in outside funding to upgrade the airport.