City council approves airport fuel farm loan

The Huntington Common Council approved a loan to the Board of Aviation Commissioners to assist it in funding the construction of a new fuel farm at the Huntington Municipal Airport during its meeting on Tuesday, June 18.

The loan totals $460,000 and will come out of the city’s riverboat fund. That fund contains the casino tax revenue the city receives from the state. The state contributes approximately $100,000 to the fund every August, noted Clerk-Treasurer Christi McElhaney.

The Board of Aviation Commissioners, which oversees the airport, needed the loan to round out funding for the aforementioned fuel farm. The airport’s current fuel farm consists of three underground tanks and other apparatus. The board intended to replace the fuel farm in 2021, but after a leak was discovered in one of the tanks last year, the board moved the replacement project up to this year.

Aviation Commissioner Matt Wilcox and Airport Manager Scott Nicola explained that replacing the entire fuel farm made more sense than spending $100,000 to $200,000 on patching up a leaking tank that was scheduled to be replaced in two years anyway.

“Rather than spend a bunch of money for a Band-Aid, we thought, let’s just do it right and get it done, even though it’s a little earlier than we planned,” said Wilcox of the replacement project.

In addition to the leaking tank, a fuel farm assessment that was conducted last year also revealed the presence of faulty equipment and thin end caps, Wilcox and Nicola added.

As the board had been preparing for the replacement project, it already had $331,000 apportioned for the task in its capital fund. With the loan from the city, the board will now be able to cover the cost of the project, which totals $791,000.

Council’s approval of the loan also established a repayment schedule. Under the terms of the schedule, the board will make payments of $46,000 annually for the next 10 years to the city. Wilcox and Nicola noted, though, that full repayment could occur earlier than that, by virtue of financial assistance from the Federal Aviation Administration. Starting in 2022, they said, grants will be available from the FAA totaling $150,000, which the board would be able to use to help pay off the loan.

Wilcox and Nicola stated that work on the airport’s new fuel farm would commence this month and was anticipated to be finished by late July.

The new farm, they said, will feature above-ground tanks. The project will also see the farm’s current tanks dug up and removed.