North Carolina commission approves bonds for Asheville airport

The Greater Asheville Regional Airport Authority in North Carolina has won approval to sell $175 million of transportation revenue bonds.

The state Local Government Commission voted April 4 to allow the airport authority to continue to finance its expansion work at the regional airport.

Most bond sales in the state must be approved by the commission, which is chaired by State Treasurer Dale Folwell and reviews if the amount of money that municipalities want to borrow is reasonable for the projects proposed and whether they can pay it back.

The airport’s fixed-rate bonds will pay for the second phase of the construction and modernization of the airport aimed at expanding it from a single-story seven-gate building constructed in the 1950s to a two-story 12-gate terminal. The new building will be more than double the size of the existing facility.

Along with grants from the Federal Aviation Authority, the funds will be used for a $44 million new air traffic control tower that’s already under construction. Under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed last year, the FAA awarded the project $15 million.

“When Americans fly, they should be able to expect safe, modern, and reliable airports, which are also critical to our local economies,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

Other work at the airport includes building a ticketing lobby, TSA screening area, and baggage claim and concession areas.

The Asheville airport authority has said increasing passenger traffic has taxed the ability of the terminal to accommodate demand.

It is the third busiest airport in North Carolina and saw 1.8 million passengers in 2022.

Kroll Bond Rating Agency assigned an A-plus rating to the authority’s upcoming sale of Series 2023 airport system revenue bonds, which are subject to the alternative minimum tax. KBRA also affirmed the authority’s rating and stable outlook.

“The long-term rating continues to reflect the healthy regional economy served by Asheville Regional Airport, anchored by popular leisure attractions; a very strong recovery in passenger traffic since the nadir of the COVID-19 pandemic; relatively high yields for AVL’s primary carrier, Allegiant Air; and solid liquidity,” KBRA said.

The authority’s outstanding airport system revenue bonds, including the upcoming Series 2023 bond sale, are secured by a pledge of net revenues generated by the airport.

Moody’s Investors Service rates the deal Baa2 with a stable outlook.

Siebert Williams Shank is to be senior underwriter for a negotiated sale anticipated April 27, according to the Local Government Commission agenda.

In other bond business last week, the Local Government Commission approved Dare County’s request to issue $49.2 million of limited obligation bonds. Proceeds would be used to build an EMS facility and fire station in Kill Devil Hills, replace the Southern Shores EMS station and construct a new Dare MedFlight airport hangar.

Catawba County received clearance to issue $43.5 million in limited obligation bonds to pay for demolition of the Maiden Elementary School and replace it with a new building with ancillary facilities.

The commission approved Wilmington’s plan to issue $30 million of limited obligation bonds. The Durham Housing Authority was given the okay to issue $21 million in conduit revenue bonds, proceeds of which will be loaned to Hardee Street Housing to pay for a 132-unit multifamily rental housing development to be called Hardee Street Apartments.

The Raleigh Housing Authority was approved to sell $17 million in conduit revenue bonds to be loaned to KTJ 382, which will build a 119-unit multifamily rental housing development called The Pines at Peach Pondforhouseholds below the area median income.

Sanford was given a green light for $10.6 million in limited obligation bonds to build a fire station for approximately $8 million and buy two pumper trucks for about $800,000 each. 

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