Commissioners OK $2M for new terminal

The Lycoming County commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved $2 million in funds for the Williamsport Regional Airport terminal project.

“It sounds like we’ve all come to an agreement on moving forward with this,” said Commissioner Jack McKernan. “We just have to figure out the logistics of funding it that is the best option for the county.”

“We have been putting our heads together on this problem,” said Commissioner Rick Mirabito, who was originally opposed to giving the funds. “We have worked very hard to come up with a solution rather than just sticking to a position.”

The source of the funds is still up for debate as McKernan and Mirabito would like to take out a state loan, while Commissioner Tony Mussare is in favor of taking it all out of the county’s gas drilling impact funds from the state, as originally planned.

“I don’t want to leave debt to our children’s children,” Mussare said. “We have the money in Act 13 (gas drilling impact funds) … and we should use that money, and not borrow more.”

Mirabito and McKernan said they are concerned about the money currently available in the county’s general fund and a deficit projected by the county Fiscal Department of more than $4 million by the end of 2017.

McKernan said he could have a change of heart if the county is able to cut enough costs over the next year to nullify the projected deficit.

As it is, McKernan is in favor of keeping $2 million of the gas drilling impact funds in the county account and getting the money from a different source, so as to spread it out over 10 years at a fixed interest of 1.75 percent. The fund balance would deplete by $200,000 per year over the next 10 years, rather than $2 million in the first year, he said.

Mirabito said a decision should be made on where the money will be drawn by the end of the year.

Tom Hart, executive director of the airport, reiterated that building a new terminal does not guarantee more airline service, but it will increase the chances of getting another provider in addition to American Airlines.

While the terminal project has continued to progress at a slower rate, the approval of the funds means the project will go out for bid in December or January, and Hart hopes construction will start in March.

It may take up to two years before the terminal is finished, Hart said.

The next commissioners meeting will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.