Back in May, when Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport officials made a proposal to the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation asking for $1.2 million over 30 years to help service the debt on the airport’s $35 million terminal construction project, some GBIC board members were reluctant to commit at that level, saying it could keep GBIC from investing in other, unnamed future projects.

The airport also was planning to ask for $600,000 over 30 years from the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation to help service the debt. At the time, the Federal Aviation Administration had committed $5 million to the project, money Airport Director Bryant Walker has cautioned will be taken off the table if the city couldn’t decide soon how to finance the terminal project.

In August, Gilberto Salinas, GBIC’s interim executive director, said his group was meeting with the airport and city officials to decide what level GBIC could commit to in “a way that we both win.” While everybody wants a new terminal, he said, the existing 37,000-square-foot terminal, which was built in 1971, is “functional.”

Walker, who took over as airport director in May 2016, argues that the existing terminal is effectively obsolete as well as being too small. The new terminal would be about 85,000 square feet.

“It does not function for the intended purpose any longer,” Walker said in a recent interview.

Then came the news from Rep. Filemon Vela’s office on Sept. 6 that the FAA had approved a $12.7 million grant for construction of the new terminal, well more than the agency’s original commitment of $5 million, and on top of $1.2 million the airport received from the FAA in 2015 for terminal design.

At its Sept. 12 meeting, the city commission gave the airport permission to accept the $12.7 million grant. The money means the airport won’t have to ask GBIC and BCIC for as much money to get the project done. Walker said it should be an easier sell.

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