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City OKs airport funding

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Game on.

Tuesday, the Albany City Commission agreed to ante up to Washington's request to partially fund a new Southwest Georgia Regional Airport terminal.

The project, which will be predominately funded by federal dollars through the Federal Aviation Administration, will require that the city come to the table to the with a share of the project cost -- a gamble the city commission agreed to take Tuesday.

Currently, the FAA has told airport Director Yvette Aehle they are prepared to offer $5.4 million for the project, which would put the city's local share at $1.5 million, Aehle said.

But Aehle has also been put on notice that any unclaimed FAA funds that were originally offered to other airports around the country but have since been declined, could be steered towards the project. The most the FAA could commit to the project would be $10 million, Aehle said.

If $10 million were committed by the FAA -- a move some say is unlikely -- it would require that the city put $3.9 million in the pot as the local match.

The gamble is that the $3.9 million line item -- which is among the projects slated for the next round of special local option sales tax -- would still need to be funded if the SPLOST VI referendum doesn't pass in November.

Aehle told commissioners Tuesday that should that happen, the alternative funding would involve either dipping into the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia Trust -- commonly referred to as MEAG money -- and the general fund as the last resort.

While the decision was approved unanimously Tuesday, the decision will have to be ratified at the city commission's night meeting later this month.

In other airport terminal business, the commission awarded a $1.6 million contract to Oxford Construction Company to complete apron improvements which be done in advance of the terminal project.

The commission also agreed to accept a Georgia Department of Transportation grant for $47,000 for the apron improvements.