Federal funds for B.I. Airport will subsidize operations

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 5:30pm

More than $1 million in grant monies has been allocated for the Block Island State Airport as part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, but according to a Rhode Island Airport Corporation spokesperson said the monies will likely be allocated for continued operations at the airport rather than be put towards any capital improvement project.

When asked by The Block Island Times what, if any projects had been identified for the grant funds, RIAC spokesman John Goodman said, “While it is too soon to say what investments may or may not be made in any given public airport in Rhode Island, it is worth noting that in FY 2020 Block Island Airport operations and debt service require an annual subsidy of $844,800, requiring that the top priority for federal funding be the continued operations of the airport.”

Island, as well as the state’s five other airports would be receiving more than $24 million in relief. The majority of that funding, at almost $22 million, was slated for T.F. Greene in Warwick. Westerly Airport is slated to receive $1,072,803.

Goodman said “the allocations made under the CARES Act are intended for airport operations and/or improvements given the current lack of funding that would typically be contributed by the airlines themselves.”

Representatives from RIAC and town officials began a conversation earlier this year about how to improve revenue at the Block Island State Airport. After some disruption last year, FlightLevel Aviation signed on as the fixed base operator and started to collect landing fees from pilots. But the local airport has virtually no non-aviation revenue streams, which has placed it consistently in the red.

RIAC officials said they were creating a 10-year plan for the local airports, including how to expand and create revenue from the airport parking lot, but according to Goodman, the COVID-19 pandemic has put those discussions on hold.

“Although the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) does intend to move forward in its Strategic Business Planning process to determine high priority investments for Block Island and other public airports in the state over the next decade,” Goodman wrote to The Times, “the decisions and timetable of those investments will almost certainly be altered by the current COVID-19 situation.