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Albany airport terminal project moving forward

ALBANY -- Albany city commissioners got good news from local airport officials Tuesday after the FAA issued a $500,000 annual payment to the airport earlier than expected.

Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Director Yvette Aehle told the commission that a payment originally expected to come in late summer had come early, meaning that a project to design and construct a new airport terminal was still on track to proceed.

"The design process will take roughly eight months, but everything looks like we're on schedule," Aehle told the commissioners at their Tuesday work session.

The Federal Aviation Administration has agreed to fund 76 percent of the project, or roughly $12 million, Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said. The $15.8 million price tag is an engineer estimate and could fluctuate, Aehle said.

The remaining 24 percent will have to be matched locally, either through grants or tax funds. Aehle told the commission that the project would be perfect for consideration on the coming special sales tax referendum in November.

"If the voters approve SPLOST 6 in November, we could be ready to go pretty soon," she said. "If they don't, that would be a major setback."

The airport terminal at the facility is a remnant of the 1970s when commercial passenger air travel was a budding.

Today, while air travel still ferries hundreds in and out of the city every day to Atlanta, it has largely taken a back seat to cargo flights from major carriers like UPS, who make Albany the state's second-largest cargo airport in the state.

On Monday, the aviation commission approved acceptance of the FAA grant and recommended that the City Commission adopt the measure as well.

The $500,000 will largely go to cover costs associated with the design and the first part of construction, which will likely be a new apron on the runway.