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Interest on runway work might exceed $6 million

September 08, 2005|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County expects to pay at least $6 million in interest for financing part of Hagerstown Regional Airport's runway extension in addition to the $2.6 million the county agreed to pay toward the project's construction costs, County Commissioner William J. Wivell said last week.

"It'll probably end up being more than $6 million, because I think rates are going up," Wivell said.

The commissioners anticipate borrowing $19 million for the approximately $61 million project, Wivell said. The Federal Aviation Administration plans to pay for most of the project over 10 years.

But because the extension must be completed by 2007, and the FAA won't fully repay the county for its share for 10 years, the commissioners will have to borrow money to complete the project on time.

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The extension must be finished by 2007 to meet new federal regulations on runway length, airport officials have said.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said Wednesday details of the project's financing were ironed out when the project was approved in 2003.

Wivell said the issue still remains a sore spot with him, because he wasn't aware the county would have to pay financing costs. He said he was under the impression the county would just pay $2.6 million - its share of the project.

Nipps said she didn't think the county would receive the money from the federal or state governments sooner, which would lessen the amount the county has to borrow.

"We continue to ask the FAA and MAA (Maryland Aviation Administration), but the likelihood of it coming in sooner is probably not going to happen," Nipps said.

Considering what the FAA and MAA are contributing toward the extension, Nipps said the county's share, even with the interest costs, is small.

The FAA has agreed to contribute $47 million toward the project; the state has committed to $10.6 million.

Nipps and Commissioner James F. Kercheval said the extension will boost the county's economy by attracting business and creating jobs.

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