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Airport Official Says FAA Wants Money Back

Aviation: Dios Marrero declines to identify who issued the warning, advises delay in Burbank terminal plan prompted demand.

May 05, 2000|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN and JEAN GUCCIONE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Burbank Airport Executive Director Dios Marrero said Thursday that Federal Aviation Administration officials have warned they may seek the return of a $20 million federal grant because of continuing delays in construction of a new airport terminal.

Marrero said the demand, if acted upon, could force airport officials to sell the planned new terminal area on the former Lockheed Martin Plant B6 site. But Marrero declined to identify the FAA officials who issued the warning, and an FAA spokesman in Washington said he was not aware of any such demand.

The"FAA has not requested the return of any grant money from Burbank Airport," said FAA spokesman Paul Turk.

Marrero said that while the agency did not formally demand a return of the $20 million grant used to buy the 130-acre terminal site, FAA officials made it clear that they could do so.

"The FAA is concerned that the funding that they put into the land acquisition is used for a terminal on the site," Marrero said. "They've made clear they can't be indefinitely patient."

The grant money is part of a larger pool of $65 million in federal funds handed out to the airport to acquire the former Lockheed Martin site. The airport has already taken title to 50 acres of the site but the remaining 80 acres remains in the hands of a trustee, Marrero said.

Both the FAA and the airport have split the land acquisition costs 50-50, said Marrero, adding they would have to sell a portion of the 80 acres to pay back the federal government.

"We're going to have to sell the portion of the B6 property that would also be the site of the new terminal," Marrero said. 'We don't have the ability to come up with $20 million without crippling our financial position. We've already put up $60 million of our own money to invest in the property."

Marrero could not say how much of the property would be put on the market and added that more than likely it would take time to find prospective buyers.

If the Airport Authority were forced to relinquish the money and sell the terminal site, Marrero said a terminal could be built on the west side of the airport, where general aviation companies serving business jets now lease space from the airport.

But airport officials say conditions for development were less favorable there because of limited access to the area and the loss of lease revenue.

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A spokesman for Rep. James Rogan (R-Glendale), whose district includes Burbank Airport, said Thursday that the congressman is gathering information from the FAA and the Airport Authority on the issue.

The airport terminal has been the center of a long-running battle between the airport, which says passenger demand should determine its size, and area residents, who want limits because of concerns over aircraft noise.

The terminal project has been delayed indefinitely while the Airport Authority conducts a three-year, $4-million noise study to win the city of Burbank's support for the terminal.

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NOISE STUDY DELAY

A three-year noise study poses latest obstacle to plans for a new terminal. B2

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