This photo shows a rendering of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.
ALBANY — The federal government Tuesday promised the city of Albany $3.2 million in funding to help build the city’s new airport terminal at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.
A “Notice of Grant Award” has been issued by the Georgia Department of Transportation and states that the Federal Aviation Commission has given the airport $3,244,726 in funds to go towards the construction of the new terminal.
That amount includes $1.1 million in FAA funding that the airport was entitled due to being a non-hub rural airport and $2.04 million in discretionary spending funds.
The money will require that the city put up a percentage of local dollars, which will come from sales tax proceeds approved by the voters as a part of Special Local Sales Tax Option VII last November.
Last month, the city commission gave Airport Director Yvette Aehle what amounted to a $3.2 million ceiling on which to base federal funding levels so that the amount of local matching funds could be determined.
The airport overhaul will cost roughly $15 million to complete. The award announced Tuesday is for construction and demolition of the terminal building itself.
Other improvements, including rehabilitation and construction of the runway apron and the creation of a new parking scheme, are included in the $15 million package.
Despite the fact that the airport is technically in violation of Homeland Security regulations in part because of limitations of the 1950’s-era terminal, there was some doubt as to whether the FAA would be able to fork over any cash.
In July, just as airport officials were preparing bids on the terminal phase of the construction project, the FAA shut down over a funding squabble in Congress.
When its offices re-opened through a temporary funding agreement that allowed operations to continue through September, the FAA announced that it would be scrutinizing every dollar spent on projects throughout the country.
And, in some cases, airport improvement projects, like one in Athens, got the ax.
Aehle credit’s the city’s readiness and the support from the area’s congressional delegation with pushing the project up the priority list.
“I think we got this money because we were ready. We had the documents in place, we had the support of the commission and other communities didn’t,” Aehle said. “But having the support of (U.S. Rep. Sanford) Bishop, (U.S. Sen. Johnny) Isakson and (U.S. Sen. Saxby) Chambliss really helped too. They have to fly out of the airport and they know what shape it’s in.”
If all goes as planned, bids on the terminal project should be awarded at a September 27 meeting of the Albany City Commission, with construction expected to start at some point in November or December, Aehle said.