Commission to consider lease with GF airport to maintain 911 center operations

Complications related to ownership of the facility that currently houses the joint city-county 911 dispatch and emergency operations center will be discussed during Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.

Commissioners will consider a first reading of a proposed lease agreement with the Great Falls airport for the facility and will likely vote to set a public hearing for Sept. 5.

The proposed 30-year lease protects the significant investment of the city in the facility and allows for continued operation of the dispatch and emergency operations centers at the site. The proposed lease has been signed by the airport director and the cost to the city is $104,400 for the construction cost of a new roadway adjacent to the site.

Should the airport terminate the lease, it will pay the city $2 million if it’s within the first 15 years or $1 million in the second 15 years.

The facility was built using some federal funding on property acquired using federal grant funds in the 1980s when the Federal Aviation Administration promised jobs for an Automated Flight Services Station.

City negotiating lease for 911 center with airport after discovering ownership issues

Over the years, the jobs never materialized and the city worked to be released from the grant requirements and the Great Falls airport became the sponsor responsible for the grant in 1997, an action recognized by the FAA.

At that time, the current dispatch center property was transferred to the city by a Quit Claim Deed, but the airport never removed the property from its master plan map. Since the property is still on those maps, the FAA doesn’t recognize that the property belongs to the city and would require the city to purchase the property at current market value if the airport could say it would never need the property for airport operations. That’s something the airport director has said he cannot guarantee.

The property sat vacant for years until the city moved the 911 dispatch center into the building to relieve pressure for space in the previous facility. The city utilized funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help renovate the facility and purchase equipment.