Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Fast-Growing Asheville Regional Airport OK’d for $175 Million in Bonds to Expand Terminal

Local Government Commission Approves Projects During a Meeting at UNC Wilmington Campus
Wilmington, NC
Apr 5, 2023

Asheville Regional Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the country, and its increasing passenger traffic has taxed the ability of the existing terminal building to accommodate the demand. On Tuesday, April 4, North Carolina’s Local Government Commission (LGC) approved a request by the Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority to obtain $175 million in transportation revenue bonds to continue expansion work.

The LGC, chaired by State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, and staffed by the Department of State Treasurer (DST), has a statutory duty to approve most debt issued by units of local government and public authorities in the state. The commission examines whether the amount of money units borrow is adequate and reasonable for proposed projects and confirms the governmental units can reasonably afford to repay the debt. It also monitors the financial well-being of more than 1,100 local government units.  

The fixed-rate bonds will pay for the second phase of the construction/modernization project to expand from a single-story, seven-gate terminal built in the late 1950s to a modern, two-story, 12-gate terminal. The new terminal building will more than double the square footage in the existing facility. Other work includes a ticketing lobby, TSA screening area, baggage claims and concession areas. Along with grants from the Federal Aviation Authority, the funds will be used for a new air traffic control tower that is already under construction.

The airport, located 12 miles from downtown Asheville (Buncombe County), is served by six airlines: Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Sun Country and United. It is the third busiest airport in North Carolina, with 1.8 million passengers in 2022, and offers daily flights to and from 25 domestic and international destinations.

Tuesday’s meeting was held on the UNC Wilmington campus as part of Treasurer Folwell’s transparency and accountability initiative to bring Raleigh to the people of North Carolina. He began holding meetings outside of the capital city last year to showcase the LGC’s work and impact it has on local communities. UNCW Chancellor Aswani Volety offered welcoming remarks to LGC members. Students from the college’s political science classes were provided an opportunity after the meeting to meet with LGC members in a Q&A session. They asked LGC members a series of insightful questions such as the infrastructure challenges facing local governments and the ways in which local governments could best position themselves financially when seeking LGC approval of debt. Students wanted to know what drew the LGC members to public service, and members, in turn, discussed their personal backgrounds and experiences.

In other business on the meeting agenda, the LGC approved a request by Dare County to issue limited obligation bonds totaling $49.2 million. Money would be used to build a Dare County EMS facility/fire station in Kill Devil Hills, replace the Southern Shores EMS station and construct a new Dare MedFlight airport hangar. The three projects will replace aging facilities, and no tax increase is anticipated. Limited obligation bonds are used when general fund revenues pay debt service. The town of Kill Devil Hills has a lease agreement with the county for its portion of the project debt service.

Catawba County received LGC clearance to issue $43.5 million in limited obligation bonds to pay for demolition of the three-story Maiden Elementary School that opened in 1926, and replace it with a 93,000-square-foot elementary school and ancillary facilities. Groundbreaking for the new school took place in September. A portion of the bond proceeds will pay for renovations and improvements to Newton Conover High School. No tax increase is expected.

LGC members voted in favor of a request by the city of Wilmington (New Hanover County) to issue $30 million in limited obligation bonds to improve Water Street Park and Riverfront Park; perform street, sidewalk, streetscape and riverwalk improvements; build and equip a new fire station in the Riverlights community; and equip a sports complex. No tax increase is expected.

The Durham Housing Authority was given the go-ahead to issue $21 million in conduit revenue bonds, proceeds of which will be loaned to Hardee Street Housing to pay for construction and equipping of a 132-unit multifamily rental housing development to be called Hardee Street Apartments. The apartments are designed to accommodate households below the area median income.

The Raleigh Housing Authority was approved to obtain $17 million in conduit revenue bonds to be loaned to KTJ 382, which will build and equip a 119-unit multifamily rental housing development called The Pines at Peach Pond. The apartments are designed to accommodate households below the area median income.

Sanford (Lee County) was given a green light for $10.6 million in limited obligation bonds to improve its fire-fighting capabilities by building and equipping a new fire station for approximately $8 million, and buying two new pumper trucks valued at about $800,000 each.

Orange Water and Sewer Authority (Orange County) was given the thumbs up for a loan of $4 million from the state revolving fund to replace aging equipment, increase efficiencies and reduce the risk of failures at the Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The town of Oak Ridge (Guilford County) received approval to obtain $3 million in financing to build Heritage Farm, a new town park with athletic fields, restrooms, picnic shelters, a playground and walking trails. A sidewalk will be added for accessibility. The financing will be through an installment purchase, which allows for a series of payments over time instead of paying costs up-front.

Greenville (Pitt County) will proceed with a $2.5 million installment purchase approved by the LGC to replace all radio equipment for police and fire departments. The existing equipment was purchased 10 years ago.

The town of Wadesboro (Anson County) was approved for nearly $2.2 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture revenue bonds to install water and sewer lines. The project is necessary reduce sanitary sewer overflows and to provide water to homes currently served by wells.

LGC members signed off on a request from Carolina Beach (New Hanover County) for a $2 million installment purchase to acquire more than three acres of property on North Lake Park Boulevard to allow for storage of water and for recreational facilities.

The city of Newton (Catawba County) was given LGC approval for a $1.9 million installment purchase to acquire a $255,050 garbage truck and $904,950 fire truck. A portion of the money will pay for a culvert replacement project on East 5th Street to improve stormwater and water infrastructure.

The town of Fuquay-Varina (Wake County) requested approval of $1.6 million in two-thirds revenue bonds to pay for some costs of the planned Community Center North/Senior Center. Commission members voted in favor of the financing. Two-thirds bonds do not require voter approval like a normal general obligation bond. Instead, it allows a local government to issue new debt equal to two-thirds of the amount of general obligation debt was reduced in the previous year.

LGC members approved a request by Albemarle (Stanly County) to increase state revolving loan funds by $1.5 million to rehabilitate and replace 10,000 feet of sewer line that is more than 60 years old. Combined with the original loan, the new funds raise the loan cost to $7.7 million. Rate increases will pay for the project.

Blowing Rock (Watauga and Caldwell counties) received LGC approval to enter into a $1.2 million installment purchase to install about 2,300 water meters with advanced technology. The equipment will allow for better usage monitoring and to detect leaks more quickly. No tax increase is expected.

New UNC Wilmington Chancellor Aswani Volety welcomed members of the Local Government Commission to campus on Tuesday, April 4. The LGC held its monthly meeting at the college and members met with students afterwards. From left are State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, Chancellor Volety, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Paul Butler.