GDoT, FAA agree to lower local costs for proposed new airport

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Officials of the city of Griffin and Spalding County have received notification from Carla Sands, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s acting aviation director, that the Federal Aviation Authority has agreed to a proposal that will require $6.3 million local funding for the proposed new airport rather than the previous up-front cost of roughly $12 million.
In an email sent to Griffin-Spalding County Airport Director Robert Mohl, Sands wrote, “Also, due to a number of previous federal and state investments for planning documents related to the Griffin-Spalding County replacement airport, FAA and GDoT had required the local sponsor to purchase the footprint of the replacement airport, which was an estimated $12 million, as the local commitment to the project. After further discussions, we had agreed a local investment of $6 million in land acquisition would adequately satisfy the local commitment.”
City of Griffin Commissioner Dick Morrow, who also serves as chairman of the Griffin-Spalding County Airport Authority, explained this latest development is in response to a request from local officials, but that he was uncertain the request would be fruitful.
“I didn’t know. I only hoped, and the reason (it was approved) is that GDoT and the FAA want to see this airport move forward,” he said. “It’s part of their master plan and they want to see it move forward.”
Morrow said this funding change is a departure from standard policy, and will enable the proposed new airport to move forward.
“Policy is you buy all the land up front and bring that to the table. That’s their standard policy and would be about $12 million,” he said. “It was great news.”
The projected total costs to construct the new airport had been put at $63 million, ten percent, or $6.3 million of which the city of Griffin and Spalding County would be responsible for funding.
Previously, the FAA and GDoT had required the entire $12 million be spent towards the land purchase for the airport’s footprint. Approximately $6 million of that would have been reimbursed on the project’s back end, which is anticipated to take eight years.
“Now, they said we can just pick up our $6.3 million worth and they’ll pick up the rest from there. We’ll bring that much land to the table and they’ll pick it up from there,” Morrow said, acknowledging that the city is “absolutely” ready to move forward. “We have about $2 million in cash that we could put in, so we’d have to do a little financing.”
Because some county officials have expressed concern and at times open opposition to the new airport, Morrow was asked if city officials are prepared to move forward alone if necessary.
“Yes, possibly. Actually, probably is a better answer, and it’s pretty simple why. Every day that we operate this little (existing) airport, we subsidize it with taxpayer money and it’s a loss. That doesn’t make sense. We can build a new modern business jet airport and make money, so I am motivated and believe the city is, also, to move forward with a new airport. Why would we sit here and lose money with an old airport when we can make money with a new airport?”
However, the possibility of the city moving forward with the new airport alone is unlikely, as Spalding County Commissioner Raymond Ray said he believes this news will be accepted favorably by his fellow commissioners.
“The current information provided by the FAA regarding the local costs on the land purchase allows Spalding County residents a reasonable opportunity rather than what was on the table for a new airport,” Ray said.
The Spalding County Commission is slated to vote Monday on a general obligation bond referendum that will appear on the November general election ballot, and Ray, a strong proponent of allowing residents to vote on the new airport, said it is a measure he favors.
“I will support a general obligation bond because that’s the only way we can fund it in Spalding County without raising taxes,” he said. “We can finance the costs – interest and legal fees – into the bond. There will be some costs to the county, but it will be significantly lower.”
Ray said the Spalding BoC will be voting on an eight-year $3.3 million bond, but stressed officials will use only what the project requires. If that amount comes in under $3.3 million, the balance will not be used.
“Since it’s going to take eight years to build the airport, we’ll begin now and not have anything lingering after it opens,” he said. “That’s what we were looking for.”
The possibility remains that Spalding County voters will not support the airport bond, and while Ray said he does not anticipate that outcome, it would indicate the taxpayers’ will.
“If they don’t approve it, they’ve basically told us to go with fixing the current airport, but I don’t anticipate that will happen,” Ray said.
The Spalding BoC meets at 6 p.m. July 21 in room 108 of the Spalding County Annex. Ω

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Comments

  1. Its going to go through I live here they’re going to buy my house and the shows9 acres.

  2. concerned citizen says:

    how long will it take with the new airport to make money? and how much of the outlay of the costs will be put on the taxpayers of this county? And could we better use this 63 million in this county?

  3. I vote NO now….most will also…put a vote on the grip you will see lol

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