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Pensacola City Council To Meet Regarding Aerospace Funding

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Two years after the announcement that VT Mobile Aerospace would build a plant in Pensacola, more talks on funding the project are expected this afternoon. 

Construction was announced in September, 2014, with the plant originally scheduled to begin refurbishing large aircraft this summer. But, the site, 19 acres adjacent to Pensacola International Airport, remains idle with no groundbreaking date as yet.  

“When you’re dealing with a project this large, some of the aspects of the project have changed,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. “They’re going with a larger building, which is going to be 170,000 square feet. I think they wanted to tweak how the architecture was going to look and feel.”

Besides the commercial airlines, VT-MAE also services the UPS fleet of Airbus-300 aircraft.  Hayward added that VT Aerospace’s work on the design phase of the project was almost complete.

“The drawings were about 95 percent complete,” said Hayward in July. We’re working on the maximum price guarantee right now with our builders and construction managers. Once we get that finalized, we’ll be moving forward.”

Calls to VT Aerospace President Bill Hafner in Mobile seeking an interview were not returned.

At the Mayor’s request, the City Council will meet in special session at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, to discuss its role in funding part of the $37 million project.  A resolution authorizing a $6.3 million loan from BBVA/Compass Bank is on the table. And Hayward says the leases signed in 2014 are still valid.

“Everything’s on a go there, it’s just been getting the team together and with the VT MAE team over in Mobile,” said Hayward. “And making sure exactly what they’re going to do.”

Escambia County has pledged eight million dollars to the project, including a $3.2 million loan to the City of Pensacola from the Local Option Sales Tax. Since the holdup, Commission Chairman Grover Robinson says part of their money for now is going to another major project.

“We took some of that money and turned it over to the OLF-X project,” said Robinson, referring to a development plan for property acquired from the Navy in Santa Rosa County. 

The Florida Department of Transportation is providing $11.6 million. Last year the Federal Aviation Administration denied a $3.5 million grant for the project. Pensacola officials say they can cover that with state funding. However, a nine million dollar grant from the Florida Department of Transportation will not kick in until fiscal years 2018-19.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.