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Airport treasurer warns of dwindling resources

By Tom De Martini, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 28 2014 02:47:31 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 28 2014 04:03:02 PM CST
Tony Iannelli and Charles Everett at airport meeting

Tony Iannelli and Charles Everett at airport meeting

HANOVER TWP., Pa. -

Outgoing Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority Treasurer Dean Browning gave unpleasant news to his colleagues Tuesday afternoon during a board meeting at Lehigh Valley International Airport.

The authority's 2013 budget liabilities outstripped assets and the financially-troubled, debt-laden airport must watch its 2014 books closely if scheduled capital improvement projects can be completed.

The airport's 2014 budget weighs in at just more than $20 million.

Browning said the authority has $2 million on hand, down from $4.5 million at the start of last year.

"Unless we take immediate corrective actions, the budget barely gives us enough to meet our capital improvement plan," Browning said. "And if we miss (our budget projections) we might have to dip into the cash on hand."

Browning said the airport's 2013 revenues stood at $4.548 million, which was $642,000 lower than expected. Browning added that the final profit from the Sands Bethlehem Lehigh Valley Air Show was $50,000, which was more than airport officials expected.

"We've held our ground with the budget, but it's not been successful," Browning said.

Board member and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said the authority should check its budget revenues at some point during the mid-year period to see where finances stand.

"There aren't much more areas we can cut to save significant money," Pawlowski said. "We're going to have to make some hard choices."

In early 2013, the airport was forced to eliminate 10 percent of its 110 full-time workers and scrap a popular shuttle bus service that ferried passengers back and forth from terminals to parking areas.

Cuts in staff and service were enacted by the authority in recent years to battle declining passenger counts and high debt costs.

Land deals still sought

The budget news comes on the heels of a recent announcement from the authority that it is shopping an additional 298 acres of land in Hanover Township to Lehigh Valley Industrial Park for a business park development.

Authority Executive Director Charles Everett said the airport is in talks with LVIP at this time and no selling price has been decided upon.

The authority is already attempting to sell land in Allen Township to New York-based developers for a total of $9.6 million for a controversial FedEx delivery hub.

FedEx is currently in talks with Allen Township and Northampton County officials to potentially build a massive packaging and distribution center featuring between one million and two million square-feet of warehouse space on 253 acres of land currently owned by the airport.

The authority is selling parcels of land adjacent help LVIA pay a $26 million court judgment.

According to the legal settlement’s payment schedule, the authority must pay $5 million this year and $6 million in 2015. It paid $3 million last year and $2 million in 2012.

Lease of Braden Airpark mulled

Everett said a lease of the money-losing Braden Airpark in Forks Township to a group of private citizens is being mulled.

Browning said Braden Airpark lost a total of $11,000 in 2013. Late last year, Browning said Braden was losing $5,000 per month.

"We've made no determination on that and it's not off the table," Everett said. "A lease is welcome. I haven't seen a document yet."

Everett said early estimates peg a lease at between $50,000 and $55,000 per year, but the authority would still need to make capital improvements to stay within FAA requirements.

Last year, the authority was shopping the 74 acre Braden Airpark property for $3.5 million.

In other business, the authority named Marc Troutman as chairman, replacing Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce President Tony Iannelli.

Said Troutman in a news release after the meeting: “I am pleased to have the confidence of the nominating committee and board of directors to become the new chairman. My agenda is simple: Be the best leader I can be and continue to advance both LVIA and LNAA.”

The authority named Robert Buesing as vice-chairman.

William Berger was elected as secretary-treasurer.  Pawlowski and Michael Dowd were elected as Lehigh and Northampton County representatives.