Metro-East News

Even with a federal grant, MidAmerica Airport improvements could cost county $7M

Passengers could see big changes at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport if leaders secure money from a federal grant, though St. Clair County would still have to foot upwards of $7 million over the next three years as part of the grant agreement.

The Federal Aviation Administration administers grant money to airports annually as part of the Airport Improvement Program. This year, the FAA set the money aside specifically for smaller airports such as MidAmerica, according to airport Director Tim Cantwell.

If grant money is secured, the federal government would pay for an estimated $24 million to $28 million, or roughly 75 percent, of the project. St. Clair County would pay for $6 million to 7 million. The county hasn’t decided how to pay for the project if the grant is awarded to MidAmerica, Cantwell said. The airport is focusing for now on securing the grant, he added.

If the airport doesn’t get the grant, the improvements would be put on hold.

The current passenger terminal was planned with 1994 requirements and is now out of date, Cantwell said at a Public Building Commission meeting Thursday. The terminal is not fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act nor is it updated to post-9/11 standards.

Passenger traffic has steadily increased year-over-year at the airport, from 31,458 passengers in 2014 to an expected 158,000 in 2018, according to the airport director.

The increases have caused overcrowding at check-in, in the Transportation Security Administration security check line and in passenger waiting areas, though the renovations and reconfiguration of the terminal design would make room for the growing passenger base.

Airport revenues increased by $3.5 million in 2017, according to the county’s most recent audit, though expenses went up by $1 million. St. Clair County still provides a multimillion dollar annual subsidy to the airport.

Changes to the airport would include, among other projects:

  • Baggage area relocation and expansion;
  • Relocation of the concessions area;
  • Reconfiguration of Air Terminal Drive and terminal drop-off area;
  • Upgrades to roadway signage;
  • Relocation and expansion of gates;
  • A new passenger loading bridge for Gate 4;
  • A new family restroom;
  • A new service animal relief area.

The St. Clair County Board is expected to consider applying for the grant at Monday’s meeting. The county Finance Committee gave the go-ahead for the application process and the Economic Development Committee is expected to consider it Thursday evening.

The Public Building Commission oversees and manages the airport on behalf of St. Clair County.

In other business

The Public Building Commission took other actions at their meeting:

  • Commissioners approved a new lease with the current concessions vendor, Roy-el On the Fly, Inc. The Commission opened up the concession lease to bids earlier this year. The minimum amount assured to MidAmerica increased from the previous $3,000 annually to $15,000 annually, and the lease rate increased from 5 percent to 8 percent.
  • Commissioners approved an agreement with Michaels Machines, a firearms manufacturer based in Madison County. The business plans to lease 100 square-feet of space for $2,400 a year at the airport, which was recently designated a Foreign Trade Zone. These zones are isolated areas where companies can do business, such as manufacturing, without their products becoming subject to tariffs. Michaels Machines will modify imported machined parts at the leased space in the airport.
  • Commissioners approved $260,500 for the purchase of new cooling equipment for the jail, including the necessary electrical equipment.
  • Commissioners approved $119,328 for repairs to the county parking garage.
Reporter Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis