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Chris Jones

County Plans Bond Issue to Finance Aviation Projects

22 June 2004

The Clark County Department of Aviation hopes to issue up to $400 million in new bonds to help finance planned land purchases and construction at three existing Southern Nevada airports and the proposed airport site in Ivanpah Valley.

If approved during a special July 20 public hearing, Deputy Aviation Director Rosemary Vassiliadis said, the money would be used for everything from future terminal and runway expansions, road and taxiway construction, noise mitigation and improved security.

"The projects (we hope to finance) are so necessary because most of them are capacity-related," Vassiliadis said Thursday. "We never want to be behind the eight ball again."

Vassiliadis said the financing plan and its related projects predate the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks but were placed on hold until airport traffic recovered to preattack levels. McCarran is back in growth mode, she added, including plans to open Southern Nevada's second international airport in Ivanpah Valley as early as 2017.

McCarran has hosted nearly 13.25 million arriving and departing passengers through April, putting it on pace to top its best-ever 12-month total of 36.87 million set in 2000.

The bonds' most significant long-term effect would likely be the pending purchase of 6,500 acres of federally owned land in Ivanpah Valley, a step Vassiliadis said would cost approximately $20 million. The land is located near the California-Nevada border about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas just east of Interstate 15.

Other projects likely to be funded by the proposed bonds include McCarran's planned Terminal 3 complex and accompanying changes along the Russell Road corridor; a pedestrian bridge linking McCarran's C- and B-gates areas; and a control tower at the Henderson Executive Airport, Vassiliadis said.

The department hopes to raise the money through the sale of airport revenue bonds, which are repaid from collected passenger facility fees paid by travelers who use Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.

Vassiliadis said McCarran now collects $3 from each local passenger, though that fee will likely increase to $4.50 in October.

The department also hopes to save additional money by refunding two bond series issued in 1995 and 1999 whose combined value is $140 million. The department hopes to refinance those debts at more-favorable interest rates, Vassiliadis said.

Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport and its smaller, sister airfields in Henderson and North Las Vegas currently produce enough combined revenue to repay the proposed new bonds and bond refunding.