BELFAST — Councilors approved Aug. 3 a request from Belfast Municipal Airport Manager Kenn Ortmann and the Belfast Airport Advisory Committee to put out a request for bids for a short-term loan that would allow the city to add jet fuel tanks in its fuel farm project.

The city has been working to acquire funding for a fuel farm at the airport for several years. Its plan was to add two fuel tanks, one with 100 low lead airplane fuel and one with jet fuel.

When it was approved for $668,200 in funds through the Federal Aviation Administration last spring, project bids came back about $408,000 over budget, he said. So the city decided to drop the plan to add a jet fuel tank.

But then it was left with $23,167 that the FAA would not cover for design work for a jet fuel tank because the city no longer planned to install a jet fuel tank. If the city got the extra funding for the jet fuel tank, those design costs would then be covered by the FAA, Ortmann said.

The loan would be paid in full after four years with entitlement funds from the FAA, he said. Local lending institutions have shown interest in making the city a short-term loan that would result in a balloon payment after four years when the city receives the FAA funds. “If the pieces and parts don’t fall together, you’ve already approved moving ahead with just the 100 low lead tank,” he said. “This is an effort to see if we can do the whole thing all at once.”

The city has been allocated a total of $51,000 among three federal COVID-19 relief bills. It has used $20,000 of those funds for operating costs, which lowered the amount of money that had to be raised through taxes for the airport.

The federal government allows airports to use the funds for staffing and borrowing costs, Ortmann said in an email to The Republican Journal. The city could use $31,000 of those funds to pay on the short-term loan so there would be no additional money raised through taxation.

A Maine Department of Transportation aviation engineer floated the idea of using the funds on a loan for the jet fuel tank to Ortmann. Councilors will decide at a later time if they want to pursue the idea after bid requests come back or use those funds for future operating costs, Ortmann said.

Councilor Mary Mortier asked Ortmann to verify that the funds would ultimately come from the federal government and not from taxation, which he did. Councilor Mike Hurley said jets are flying into the city whether residents realize it or not.

“I’m glad we’re adding jet fuel, Ken; I’m always amazed by those photographs you send us with how many jets are landing here,” Hurley said. “I don’t think most people think that jets are landing in Belfast, but they are and probably there’ll be more when we have jet fuel.”

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