By Paul Gable
The cost of renovating the old terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport should raise questions among limited government proponents.
Now estimated at approximately $10 million, the cost includes $3.5 million for a new glass front to the building, according to several sources.
But, rising costs on airport projects are nothing new at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
The real question is do we need to spend this money?
What is ironic about the old terminal project is that the planned renovations now include work that county officials were once told could not be done on that structure.
County officials were told in early 2008 that expansion work and interior renovations on the old terminal building would not meet new building code requirements and could not be done.
So the new east side terminal and its passenger gates were built and the old terminal is being renovated to open two new passenger gates to handle all of the new passengers flying to Myrtle Beach.
But, that is not happening.
Despite all of the publicity about new passenger records at the airport in recent years, airport passenger growth has been essentially flat since 2000.
In 2000, Myrtle Beach International Airport had approximately 792,000 departing passengers. In 2014, that number was 876,923 including all of the record passenger months. A total growth of approximately 10% over a 14 year span or less than 1% per year.
Passenger projections presented to council in the early 2000’s justifying all of this new construction estimated 1,231,908 enplaning (departing) passengers would use Myrtle Beach International Airport in 2014.
That means departing passengers actually using the airport are 29% below estimates used to justify all of the new construction at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
But, we are constantly told we need more gates and more space to service all of the new passengers using the airport.
Maybe the missing 29% is delayed along the way.
One other consideration is that all departing passengers are charged a $7 Passenger Facility Charge. This $7 fee is used to pay back the bonds (approximately $60 million) which were floated to help pay for the new terminal.
The shortfall in passengers means the airport collected $2,484,895 less PFC’s last year than projected when the bonds were issued.
Now we are told Myrtle Beach International Airport needs to spend $10 million more on refurbished passenger facilities and gates at the old terminal for the new passengers that will be coming.
That’s okay. It’s not our money, we are told. And it is true the money does not come from local property taxes but it does come from U.S. citizens and corporations paying fees to use the airport.
It also comes from FAA grants which are funded from federal taxes on airplane fuel and from general tax revenue collected by the federal government and/or from the bond proceeds when the Federal Reserve issues new debt to pay for the federal deficit.
It really is your tax dollars at work.