Airport improvement talks slow, but ongoing
It's been more than two years since Port Aransas city officials began talking with the Texas General Land Office to renegotiate a lease that could eventually allow more commercial development at Mustang Beach Airport, but City Manager Michael Kovacs said talks are not at an impasse.
Kovacs said he expects an agreement to be reached, though he's not sure if it will happen within the next six months.
"It's just very complicated, with a private partner and the city and the GLO, trying to balance all of the issues," Kovacs said.
The city leases all 214 acres of its land at Mustang Beach Airport from the GLO and also is seeking 23.2 acres of some adjacent GLO land for use in airport operations.
If a new lease is worked out, the city plans to work with a private partner, Texas Aviation Partners of Austin, to run and develop the airport.
Meeting on Friday, April 3, the city's airport advisory board heard updates on discussions with the GLO. The board also heard updates from representatives of Texas Aviation Partners who said they still are eager to develop the airport.
Among points still being hammered out with the GLO is the dollar amount of the airport lease, Kovacs said. It's currently $200 a year.
The city and GLO have agreed to a new amount of $5,000 per year because of the additional land and increased opportunities for commerce, Kovacs said.
That amount would shoot up to $25,000 a year when an agreement is signed between the city and a private partner to develop the airport. The rent would revert to $5,000 if the city loses its private partner.
While the city and GLO have agreed to these rent provisions, it hasn't all been put in the latest draft of a proposed contract between the agencies, Kovacs said.
The issue of insurance coverage remains under discussion between the GLO and the city. The GLO wants the city to carry insurance that would cover 100 percent replacement costs in case of a disaster that destroys all of the buildings at the airport, Kovacs said. The city proposes that no such requirement be a part of the renegotiated lease, he said.
Once a new lease is signed, Texas Aviation Partners has a three-phase master plan it wants to implement for the airport. Phase One includes construction of a paved tie-down area for aircraft, more hangars, a terminal building and more.
Texas Aviation Partners is conducting a survey of pilots who use the airport to hear what their thoughts about Mustang Beach development. As of April 3, 107 pilots had responded, said Stephen Alexander, one of the partners in Texas Aviation Partners.
Nearly all of the pilots said they're eager to see development at the airport, Alexander said. Some are non-residents of Port Aransas who said they have put off moving to Mustang Island because they want better facilities at the airport first, Alexander said.