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Spokane airport revenues trail budget

But contracts, construction continue at healthy pace

Spokane International Airport revenues are running more than $2 million below budget, a shortfall airlines serving Spokane will have to cover if passenger boardings do not rebound by the end of the year.

Director Neal Sealock said airport officials are working to keep a tight rein on costs and maximize revenues. Spokane city and county taxpayers will not end up with the bill, he said.

Revenues, at $10.7 million, are down more than 16 percent, a decline roughly equivalent to the falloff in passenger numbers. Much of that decline, Sealock noted, is due to the termination of Express Jet service last fall.

But as airport operations suffer through an industrywide slowdown, construction activity continues to accelerate, with the board of directors Wednesday approving contracts that bring the total so far in 2009 to $53 million.

Acme Concrete Paving Inc. was awarded the contract for rebuilding part of the terminal with a bid of $6.7 million, more than $3 million below estimate. Another contract worth $1.1 million was awarded for oversight of the project, the first upgrade in 35 years.

Sealock said federal and state stimulus money will enable the airport to get done in the next two years what would have taken a decade or more otherwise.

The board also approved the selection of an engineering group to design a new facility for aircraft maintenance and painting.

The project received $4 million in state funding last month. Although the sum was less than requested by the airport, Sealock said he still expects a design that would allow prospective tenants Associated Painters and Cascade Aerospace to eventually hire more than 260 workers to paint and maintain airplanes.

Cascade already employs 60 in an existing, overhauled hangar.

“We know that this is a tremendous project,” Sealock said.

The board also approved an alignment for a future third runway that will put it parallel to the airport’s main runway. The alternative was an alignment parallel to the Fairchild Air Force Base runway.

The Spokane City Council and Spokane County Commissioners must add their consent.

A decision, Sealock said, will eliminate some, but not all, of the potential land-use conflicts that have become more acute as development on the West Plains increases.

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