Atlantic City Looks to Airfield Sale to Forestall State Takeover

  • Water utility would buy Bader Field for about $100 million
  • Proposal needs approval from city council, state agency

Atlantic City officials unveiled a proposal under which the local water utility would buy a closed municipal airfield for more than $100 million in hopes of generating enough cash to avoid a possible New Jersey takeover.

The city missed a Sept. 15 deadline to dissolve the water authority as collateral for a $73 million dollar state loan. Faced with an Oct. 3 deadline to come into compliance or risk default, the city plans to use proceeds from the sale of historic Bader Field as collateral instead. The Municipal Utilities Authority would issue bonds to fund the purchase.

"We always talked about monetizing the MUA," Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian said at the press conference. "That’s a tough word to bite when you don’t want to sell it or lease it or give it away."

Water authority director Bruce Ward praised the plan as the "most minimally invasive measure" to accomplish the "root canal" that Atlantic City needs. Atlantic City Council President Marty Small said the sale will give the city "much needed relief" and eliminate north of $100 million from its $500 million debt.

The plan still needs approval from the city council and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. DCA director of communications Tammori Petty didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Bader Field, which closed to air traffic in 2006, was put up for auction in August, but only received two bids of $50 million. The city rejected an $800 million bid for the 140 acre air field in 2008.

The city, which has been headed toward insolvency since a third of its casinos closed in 2014, has until Nov. 3 to develop a five-year plan to restore fiscal stability and avoid a state takeover. The state could sell its assets and void or change labor contracts through expansive powers awarded by the legislation and signed by Governor Chris Christie when the state provided the loan.

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