Airport Defers Certain Capital Projects

August 1, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — In light of declining passenger totals, the Kent County Aeronautics Board approved amendments to Gerald R. Ford International Airport’s 2009 capital budget, as well as its five-year capital improvement plan that would defer or delay some already-approved capital projects.

Staff recommended that in next year’s capital budget, as well as in the 2010-2014 capital improvement plan, the board: defer the purchase of equipment where feasible, except for police, operations and parking shuttles; use federal Airport Improvement Program funds to replace fire and snow control equipment; and prioritize capital projects based on safety, security and customer service, using federal and Passenger Facility Charge funds as much as possible.

Deputy Executive Director Phillip Johnson said staff believes it’s prudent at this time to defer or put off projects and equipment and vehicle purchases that are not necessary from a safety and security standpoint or do not have federal dollars tied to them, because it’s a way to ensure that the airport keeps its costs as low as it can. 

Johnson attended an Energy/Air Service Task Force summit two weeks ago with 50 other airport executives from across the country. He said every single one of them is doing exactly what Ford International is doing: decreasing capital spending and reducing operation budgets in anticipation of further reductions, consolidations and contraction in the airline industry.

“What we’re doing today is a consistent theme throughout the industry,” Johnson told the board. “It doesn’t mean that we can’t come back to the board at a future time and in these projects.”

Board member Richard Vander Molen said the capital projects identified for deferral are the kinds of projects that, if kept in the budget, would drive up the airport’s rates and charges to the airlines.

“What we’re trying to do is keep those rates and charges as low as we can so there’s no undue pressure put on the airlines,” Vander Molen remarked.

The revised 2009 capital budget totals $7.84 million, and the revised capital improvement plan totals $13.7 million.

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