Editor’s Note: The Ports Authority just corrected the amount for which it sold the Patillas airport, stating it was actually for $150,600.
The Puerto Rico Ports Authority closed on the sale of the first of three regional airports it plans to divest, reaching a deal with Xpert’s Inc. for $150,600 for the former Patillas regional airport, agency Executive Director Anthony Maceira confirmed.
The bid was awarded Aug. 7, to the San Juan-based firm dedicated to disaster recovery and debris reduction, among several of the services it offers and that are listed on its website. X-pert’s Inc. was the sole bidder for the former airport that spans 16 acres along the southern town of Patillas.
“The property is 100 percent flood-prone, so it cannot be used as an airport anymore. The company that won the bid is focused on recovery. They’re going to use the facilities to process organic waste that they collect and deliver it to its final destination,” said Maceira.
The former Patillas municipal airport, which the Federal Aviation Administration shuttered in 2015 along with other properties no longer viable in Fajardo and Santa Isabel, was appraised $130,000 last year. When the federal agency closed down the properties, it granted the local government a land release, allowing for their sale.
The private company, which was the sole bidder, has 30 days to sign the deed, he said.
“The Patillas airport was not generating any revenue and there was no economic activity there. Now, there will be people working there and creating business for the town,” Maceira said.
“And now we can use that money to reinvest in the 10 airports we still have open,” Maceira said.
For example, he said there is a bid currently running to carry out an $8 million repavement of one of the taxiways at Mercedita Airport, for which the FAA provides 90 percent of the funding, while Ports is required to put up 10 percent.
“That’s $156,000 that doesn’t have to come out of the Ports Authority’s coffers,” he said, adding that revamping that facility could lead to more airline traffic in the future. “We’re in talks with Spirit to be able to bring them back to Ponce.”
Meanwhile, the Fajardo airport has been on loan to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which has been using it as a parking facility for their trucks. That airport was valued at $1.4 million last year, but must be re-appraised before it’s put on the block, he said.
“That appraisal should be ready in the next month, after which we’ll publish the bid. We’ve received several informal proposals and believe there could be a bidding war,” he said. “I hope that appraisal doesn’t drop because the last one was conducted prior to Hurricane María, although it may be that the people who buy it end up not using the structure.”
The Santa Isabel airport has an $840,000 appraisal value, and Ports is already spreading the word about its intention to sell. It’s a 56-acre property with an agricultural zoning permit, outside the flood zone, Maceira said.
Besides Ponce, the Ports Authority is looking to rebuild and improve four other airports — Aguadilla, Ceiba, Vieques and Culebra — requiring a total investment of $300 million, excluding capital improvement funds available from the FAA.
“I’ve asked for an amendment to the plan to include the Isla Grande Airport, which also needs updates,” he said, adding the airport has already seen the departure of several tenants, including the Puerto Rico United Forces of Rapid Action (FURA, for its initials in Spanish.)
Their facilities were leased to a private operator that needed more space to expand at the airport that has historically served more as an executive facility, with its four Fixed Base Operators, or FBO’s.