Officials regrouping on new airport plan

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SHEILA MATHEWS:::

The Griffin-Spalding County Airport AIP (Airport Improvement Project) 29 – with a cost of approximately $200,000 – is underway, with necessary work on the beacon tower having been completed and only tree removal remaining. The cost to the city of Griffin and Spalding County was approximately $7,000.

According to Airport Director Robert Mohl, if the proposed new airport is not constructed, this is the first of many projects that will be necessary over the coming years.

“All I’m being encouraged to do at this time is some safety items that the FAA requires,” he said.

Mohl said he is uncertain of the total cost the city and county may bear, as the airport’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is currently pending FAA approval. However, he estimates the cost to will be $5 million to $6 million over the next five years, with the city and county each responsible for a five percent match, or $500,000 to $600,000.

This is all dependent upon the final outcome of the proposed new airport, he said.

At Monday evening’s Airport Authority (AA) meeting, Griffin Commissioner Dick Morrow, who chairs the AA, requested that plans for the new airport be tabled.

“We need the city and county to make a big decision on the money. Dick has been trying to put a $12 million deal together, but so far, it’s just running into many, many, many, many obstacles,” Mohl said.

The $12 million mark is the amount the FAA is currently requiring officials bring to the table, which would cover the purchase of the land for the new airport. It would be reimbursed at 90 percent, but not until construction on the new airport is completed.

“We’re going to be looking closely at the value of each parcel and discussing what options we have. It might take longer because it’s a lot of money to have to come up with. It might be an additional two or three years to begin (the new airport), or it might be a dead project,” Mohl said. “In the meantime, we’re not going to be doing a whole lot because we can’t move forward yet.”

He added that officials have not completely backed away from the new airport plan, but rather are regrouping.

“Because we’ve been so focused on the new airport, we haven’t really looked at the current airport – what it would take to turn it around and not have an operational deficit,” Mohl said. “Basically, we’re making sure we have all our i’s dotted and t’s crossed. We’re slowing down and looking at additional options for both plans.”

He said it is possible that the existing airport – which has historically seen an operational deficit – could potentially be profitable, but that it would require a significant financial commitment from the city and county.

Referencing the approximately half-million dollars that will be necessary over the coming five years, Mohl said it will not improve the airport’s bottom line.

“That is only aimed at the existing infrastructure and infrastructure repair. There is nothing in there for economic development. Nothing from the $500,000 to $600,000 the city and county is looking at spending would increase revenues to bring down the operational deficit,” he said. “They’re going to have to invest some non-FAA funds into some sort of economic development program.”

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