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City asked to finance airport tower

In this file photo, a flight navigates away from the gate and onto the runway at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.

In this file photo, a flight navigates away from the gate and onto the runway at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Dr. Bill Mayher, the chairman of the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission, told Albany city commissioners Tuesday morning cost for the city to run operations of the air traffic control tower at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport would come in at around a half-million dollars a year.

Mayher laid out two available options in regards to the control tower, which is set to be closed by the Federal Aviation Administration on May 5, for commissioners to consider:

-- The city can take over operations and maintenance -- plus accompanying costs -- of the tower;

-- The city can let the facility become what Mayher called an "uncontrolled airport."

"My recommendation is that we find the money to keep the tower open," Mayher told the board. "Not long after the federal government shuts the tower down, they'll come in and take their equipment from the tower, and once it's gone, it's gone. I don't think we'd get it back.

"They have told us, though, that if we take over operations of the tower, they will allow us to continue using their equipment."

The Catch 22 of the situation was not lost on commissioners.

"It's pretty certain that if we do decide to fund (tower operations), it's not going to be a one-time thing," Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said. "If we come up with the (emergency) funding, the federal government is not likely to resume funding at some future point."

Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff said losing the tower, which Mayher said could cause delays that jeopardize such vital airport traffic as UPS shipments, would have a serious economic development impact on the city.

"If we don't spend the money to keep the tower, we will be one step down from Valdosta (which funds operations of the air traffic tower at its municipal airport)," Langstaff said. "Plus, I'd hate to spend all that money on building a new terminal and not get the usage."

City Manager James Taylor said preliminary estimates show operation of the air traffic control tower would cost between $400,000 and $500,000 yearly. He said any funding would have to come from city reserves.

"It's getting to the point where we almost don't have an option," Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines said.

The Southwest Georgia Regional Airport tower is one of 148 across the country that is being shut down by the FAA as a byproduct of sequestration.

Also at Tuesday's work session, Langstaff revealed that he'd been approached by local contractor LRA Constructors with a plan that would allow for a much more involved design for a multimodal transit site proposed for the current Trailways bus station/Destiny Travel facility that also houses the city's public transportation operations.

During Assistant City Manager Wes Smith's update on the now three sites that are being considered for the multimodal transit station, Langstaff said a private contractor had indicated it could do more with the $3.5 million in expected funding than consultant Wendel Companies was suggesting. When talk of the private contractor persisted, Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell asked, "Who is this contractor y'all keep talking about?"

Langstaff said officials with LRA had contacted him saying they had a design that would allow more to be done with the existing facility than consultants were indicating.

"LRA is saying they can do more at that site; I don't know who to believe," Langstaff said.

That led Pike to suggest that the consultant had not done an adequate job in presenting available options to the commission.

"They should bring a proposal on how to best make each site work," Pike said.

Taylor answered: "No, sir. To beat (Wendel) up for something they were not hired to do is not fair. What you're asking is not part of what the company was tasked with doing. You figure out what it is you'd like the company to do, and I'll tell them."

Smith said he plans to conduct another public hearing on the multimodal site at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Also at the meeting, the commission gave non-binding approval to a request by Chehaw Park officials for a repayment plan on the $150,000 balance of a note the park owes the city. The plan calls for the wild animal park authority to pay $2,000 a month beginning in July.

Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta said that Chehaw should be treated the same as Flint RiverQuarium officials had been when aquarium representatives requested funding and were asked that financial records and employee information be submitted to the commission before it takes a binding vote on the matter April 23.

Marietta then offered a "friendly amendment" to the motion to approve the repayment plan, asking that 8.5 percent in interest that should have kicked in when the park was unable to pay the note by December be added to the plan.

"That doesn't sound like a very friendly amendment," Langstaff quipped before the board voted to approve the repayment plan without the interest.

Comments

FryarTuk 1 year, 4 months ago

You fools best listen to LRA they are not johnny come latelies.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 4 months ago

They will not listen to LRA that would require common sense. Besides what would the Carmike site do with that HUGE table they just bought?

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 4 months ago

Last one out of the tower please turn off the radar and the lights and lock the doors.

TOWER NOT NEEDED!!!!!!!! IT'S EASY MONEY BULL CRAP FOR 4 FLIGHTS PER DAY!!

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wsmith 1 year, 4 months ago

Do a fact check. Actually closer to 100 a day.

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RedEric 1 year, 4 months ago

Here's that rainy day the know nothing's thought would never happen. I don't understand why anything would be planned to operate at a loss. If the airport is losing money why in hades would you spend a ton of taxpayer money on a new one? Bonehead move people. How could closure be an economic loss if it costs $500,000 per year to keep it open? Do people who hold offices know what they are supposed to do or is this a Graper situation. Promotion without expectation.

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WeAreThey 1 year, 4 months ago

See why it's important to remind people of the facts? The FAA is shutting down the tower, along with many more, as a result of the SEQUESTER. All they have done is shift the cost of operation over to local governments. They aren't saying that we don't need the tower. They are saying that WE can pay for it because this is what USDOT chose as part of their cuts. This would be the same FAA that is paying for a large percentage of the new terminal. If anyone wants to talk about 'boneheads', you may want to start talking about the ones in Washington.

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B4it 1 year, 4 months ago

Does anyone think the City Commissioners will have the sense to ask for a detailed analysis of the airport traffic at the Albany location to see how many flights come in and out of this airport? Do you think they will ask for comments/input from the Jacksonville Air Traffic Control management about their abilities to handle the air traffic at the Albany location?

The current schedule for this tower does not start until 8:00 a.m. and closes by 6:00 p.m. So the early 6 a.m. and late 8:30 p.m. ASA flights are already not covered by this tower. The UPS flight schedules should also be looked at to see if the current tower is even open during their arrivals and departure times.

Annual payments of $500,000 from tax payer money is too much to disregard the facts.

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

Take a close look at the "new" plan miraculously revealed to Langstaff on the multi-modal since it will involve staying tied up with Destiny and friends--what will we own and what relationship will be required. Also, is this plan still without use of money on the screwed up mess on the SPLOST? Be concerned, be very concerned with how this deal is structured for the long haul.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 4 months ago

I think they should hear LRA out. At least it is a local contractor and if they feel they can do much more then that would be a plus. I have to agree with Pike that Wendell Company did Albany a disservice. I asked them questions and looked at their site pros and cons and I wasn't impressed at all. I think they were ill prepared.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 4 months ago

How much money can you pass under a small table?...not near as much as a BIG table......look real close at who is campaigning for the Carmike site and just who will benefit from the money spent on that location!

A spot light make the roaches run.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 4 months ago

Who is pushing for the Carmike spot? Not sure what you are referring to about the "table"? I guess I need some clarification on those two subjects. You can email me if you would rather do that than post here. You should have my email address. Thanks.

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Abytaxpayer 1 year, 4 months ago

Promises have been made that if the city will use the Carmike site. Why would the worse location for a bus station suddenly jump to #1. Who benefits from this move? Not the bus riders (not a convenient location for anyone riding the buses) Not the surrounding neighborhood (home values drop and people loitering around while waiting on a bus) So just who will benefit and who is supporting the move?

An old business saying If you want a deal to be public you place ALL the money on top of a table if you don’t want a deal to be public knowledge you pass the money under the table. A Bigger table hides more money.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 4 months ago

Close scrutiny should be undertaken to whatever plan is seriously considered. A couple of issues come quickly to mind. First, ABY has a bad history with consultants. Secondly, look at who is doing the screwtinizing. Outside of Taylor and perhaps W. Smith nobody in the City Commission has sense enough to use a calculator to say nothing of ethics.

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Cartman 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm a pilot and when coming into ABY, it is rare for another aircraft to be in the area. I believe that the weather and airport conditions reporting services can be provided through our current ASOS. JAX can continue to handle enroute and area radar services. I love the guys in the tower and hate to lose them but this nation needs to cut costs. Quit squabbling when it hits your town.

And shifting unnecessary costs from one level of government to another is not cost cutting.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 4 months ago

I spoke with a friend who flies frequently for his business and he agrees that reporting weather is easily accessed without a tower. Another point, we just need to say we can't afford it. Although, maybe Jr. Langstaff, TommieP, and Piker could wrangle it out of our MEAG treasury as a "communications" issue.

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Amazed2 1 year, 4 months ago

Yea check out LRA they have at least 3 top officials that got in trouble with the State Engineering Licensing Board for practicing Engineering .

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VSU 1 year, 4 months ago

Instead of spending money on a new bus & Airport terminal and keeping the tower open, they could use that money to repave some streets in Albany. You can ride all over Albany and see streets that looks like they haven't been paved in 20 years. Tree roots bulging the pavements leaving roads bumby and cracking, patches all over the place. Whispering Pines is a sight and you can go down Kindergarten and a 3 foot slab is rising from the ground.

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