Work Session Briefing on People Express
At the City Council work session yesterday afternoon, Newport News/Williamsburg Executive Director Ken Spirito and Newport News City Manager Jim Bourey made a presentation and answered questions from City Council about the airport’s use of funds to support People Express air service development. They explained that the funds provided by the regional group of cities and counties to support air service development were approved to match a grant from the Federal government and were appropriately used for the support of People Express operations.
Spirito also explained that the state entitlement funds were used to support the operation of People Express. He explained that while the use of these funds was not termed an “eligible” expense, it was an allowed expense and did not violate the state regulations for this fund as currently written in the state code and airport manual.
They also addressed a concern that has been raised about whether the financial support for People Express was a prudent decision. Spirito described the economic upside of a successful low cost airline serving the community, mentioning the projected $175 million economic loss when Air Tran left the airport. People Express gave the airport an opportunity to regain many of the lost passengers. He said that the appointment of Jeff Erickson as People Express CEO in late 2013 gave them an experienced leader who had run TWA and one of the largest freight air carriers in addition to directing the successful start-up of Reno Air, a west coast low cost carrier that was bought out by another airline. Spirito said that the ultimate failure of People Express was not for a lack of passengers because bookings on the airline were very good. Bourey pointed out that the demise was due to their partner, Vision Air, which provided the planes and crews, not providing the originally agreed upon number of aircraft, and a freak accident that placed one of the planes out of commission. Spirito expressed his great disappointment that People Express was not successful. He further stated that air service development is an inherently risky business. It can also be costly as evidenced by the over $4.5 million of local government support that went into the Air Tran service and its predecessor Value Jet, Bourey said.
Change of Zoning for 615 Bland Boulevard
Following a public hearing on the matter, City Council approved a request to change the zoning of roughly 3.4 acres at 615 Bland Boulevard from light industrial to retail commercial to allow for retail development. The conceptual site plan for the property proposes a nearly 40,000 square foot commercial building to be occupied by a Rooms To Go furniture store.
Court Appointed Special Advocate Funding
Last night City Council appropriated a total of $193,473 to the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. The funds are from the following sources:
- $8,101 in outside donations;
- $78,000 in local Community Support Grant funds;
- $56,044 in grant money from Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services; and
- $51,328 from the Victims of Crime Act Program grant.
CASA trains community volunteers to serve as advocates for children found by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to have been abused or neglected, or who are at risk of being abused or neglected. Volunteers advocate for placement in safe, permanent, and nurturing homes. These funds will be used to enhance volunteer coordination and training; to support the daily operations of the CASA program; for fundraising events; and to organize special activities for CASA children such as picnics and camp scholarships.
Schools CIP Project Funding
$4.4 million was appropriated to Newport News Public Schools for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) replacement projects at Gildersleeve and Hines middle schools. This is the first replacement of these systems since the schools both opened 26 years ago. The disbursement is part of the FY 2017 Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) for schools and leaves $736,000 in school CIP funds for roof replacements and mobile classroom replacements in FY 2017.
All other agenda items
were approved by City Council, and the entire Council meeting can be viewed on-demand.
The next regular meeting of the Newport News City Council will be Tuesday, February 28th. City Council typically meets the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month at 7:00 pm in City Council Chambers, City Hall, 2400 Washington Avenue. Meetings are shown live on the City's Cable Channel NNTV (Cox Ch 48/Verizon Ch 19) and are streamed live on www.nnva.gov/nntv
. City Council meetings are also available to be watched on-demand
the day following the meeting. Oftentimes City Council holds work sessions in the 10th floor conference room of City Hall in the afternoon before the regular meetings. Work sessions are open to the public. Agendas for work sessions and regular meetings are available online in the Agenda Center
the Friday before the meeting.