As the fate of the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina and Albert Whitted Airport is to be determined, the city is obligated to keep its assets afloat.
During the April 20 St. Petersburg Committee of the Whole meeting, the members reviewed the $163.125 million budget for the fiscal year 2024 capital improvement projects as part of its larger five-year, $961.278 million budget.
Projects in the works for Albert Whitted Airport in 2024 include:
• An airport fuel farm replacement: $1.1 million project cost
• Rehabilitation of the airfield vault, which includes an emergency generator: $1.1 million project cost
• An upgrade to the access control security system: $132,000 project cost
The airport can tap into $990,000 from Federal Aviation Administration grants, $1.1 million from Florida Department of Transportation grants and $113,000 via the airport operating fund.
“I’m glad we are going to use a resource for capital funding for the airport in FY 2024. I would like us to go back and try to get funding from FAA for expenses we incurred last year for capital projects,” voiced committee member Ed Montanari.
Managing Director of Development Chris Ballestra said those conversations are in progress, and the city expects to receive a response from the FAA in the next few months.
“The resolution to accept grants, as the city council unanimously approved and recommended last year, is a savvy method for caring for this important downtown waterfront asset. We are pleased it is incorporated in the 2024 budget,” Albert Whitted Airport Advisory Committee member Walt Driggers said in a prepared statement.
St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch previously instructed the city to reject additional FAA dollars, and said that emerging safety items could be addressed with non-federal resources; however, the city council ultimately opposed the mayor’s recommendation.
Montanari remarked that while there’s a 2024 budget for the airport projects, he did not see a budget for the future years.
Two months ago, an evaluation committee selected New York-based HR&A Advisors to study the non-aviation uses at the 100-acre airfield site.
A committee member said the budget for future airport projects may be determined on a year-by-year basis following the completion of HR&A’s study.
The consultant selection will go before the city council, and once the city approves and inks a contract with HR&A, Ballestra said the hope is “to move quickly” on the study, which will dictate how the city moves forward.
The Municipal Marina will be receiving $400,000 to go towards marina and facility improvements, including the replacement of pilings.
“We have seen many photos of the marina in its current state; we all have an idea of what’s needed. It’s encouraging we have [issued] an RFP to potentially identify a partner for marina renovations,” committee member Gina Driscoll commented.
Earlier this month, city officials issued a new 17-page request for proposals (RFP) for a private company to redevelop and manage the marina.
The bids for the marina management and redevelopment are due July 14.
Assuming the city will move forward on selecting a private company to steer the marina’s future, Ballestra said there would be a substantial amount of time for the design and permitting process before the redevelopment can occur.
“No different than the airport, we focus on public safety issues first,” Ballestra said regarding the designated funding. “I anticipate that you will continue to see requests for funding, albeit some of it may be ‘band aids’ [to the bigger issue], yet it is necessary.”