Officials say airline assurances a must before spending Vision2 funds
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Friday, October 26, 2012
10/26/12 at 7:57 AM
Read more about the proposal and the status of Vision 2025 projects.
Tulsa County commissioners say no Vision2 money will be spent at a city-owned air maintenance base until officials have an enforceable commitment covering jobs, payroll and longevity at the facility.
The American Airlines facility at the airport industrial complex is the world's largest civilian air maintenance depot and the target for the lion's share of Vision2's economic development package.
But uncertainty about the company's plans amid bankruptcy reorganization raises issues of whether the local taxpayers could be investing in a facility that is then abandoned by the company.
The commissioners say they want to do everything possible to avoid that.
"Before money is spent out there on those facilities, I think we need to have a contract in place with a tenant, whether it's American Airlines or any other manufacturer, who would use those facilities," said County Commission Chairman John Smaligo, co-chairman of the Vision2 campaign.
The three elected officials constitute the Tulsa County Industrial Authority, which is the most likely conduit for selling bonds and contracting with work at the airport industrial complex, which is targeted for $254 million of the two-part, $748.8 million package.
The commissioners also would be the majority of the county's other bond-issuing trust, the public facilities authority, although that group is generally limited to projects at Expo Square.
Commissioner Karen Keith said she agreed with Smaligo's position,
"I think that's only reasonable," Keith said. "I have said all along there have to be assurances with those dollars."
Commissioner Fred Perry said he's made that commitment publicly during the Vision2 campaign.
"It's always been my thinking that before any work was done at the facility that we would sit down with ... American Airlines executives and reach agreements regarding numbers of employees and payroll and similar topics," Perry said.
The process would precede the sale of bonds or any contracting for work at the facility, he said.
The statements from the commissioners were in response to separate phone calls from the Tulsa World. Smaligo said he had some concerns about anyone who thought the commissioners have had any public or private discussions on the topic - because they haven't.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, co-chairman of the Vision2 campaign, said he agreed with the commissioners' position.
Because the city owns the maintenance facility, Bartlett said he would anticipate that the Tulsa mayor would lead negotiations with the airlines, but taxpayers should feel confident that a deal will be in place before money is spent.
Smaligo said that if voters approve the economic development half of the Vision2 package and local officials can't reach an agreement with a tenant at the maintenance base, the tax would still go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
The economic development package also includes funding for improvements to city-owned facilities used by IC Bus and Spirt AeroSystem and funding for a job-closing fund of at least $52.9 million, he pointed out.
Also, about $80 million of the money for the American facilities is for buildings and infrastructure that could be essential to land a new tenant in the space, Smaligo said.
But, hypothetically, if some element of the package can't be brought to an acceptable status for the commissioners to approve, they can take steps to end the tax early so that it isn't collected for projects that won't happen.
The Vision2 package includes a 0.31 percent sales tax for the economic development package and a 0.29 percent sales tax for "quality-of-life" improvements in Tulsa County and its 10 cities. The total 0.6 percent sales tax would effectively extend the county's Vision 2025 tax - passed in 2003 - through 2029.
The commissioner's statements about spending money at the air maintenance facility are similar to standards outlined for use of money in the job closing fund.
The money would be controlled by a panel made up of the three county commissioners, the mayor of Tulsa and three other mayors from Tulsa County municipalities.
Election date: Nov. 6
Amount: $748.8 million
Tax impact: Extension of 0.6
percent Vision 2025 sales
tax from 2017 through
PROPOSITION 1: ECONOMIC
Airport industrial complex
buildings and infrastructure:
Airport industrial complex
equipment: $132 million
Closing fund: $52.942 million
Bond costs and interest:
PROPOSITION 2: QUALITY-OF-LIFE IMPROVEMENTS
Tulsa County: $92 million
Tulsa: $157.92 million
Bixby: $11.3 million
Broken Arrow: $44.1 million
Collinsville: $3 million
Glenpool: $5.9 million
Jenks: $9.2 million
Owasso: $14.38 million
Sand Springs: $10.1 million
Skiatook: $1.16 million
Bond costs and interest: $12 million
Original Print Headline: Assurance by airline is Vision2 requisite
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
A view of the American Airlines Maintenance and Engineering Center that might benefit from Vision2 Sept. 12, 2012. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
John Smaligo (left), Karen Keith and Fred Perry: The county commissioners won't spend money on a tenant that vanishes