ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission welcomed one not-so-new member to its ranks during the board's January meeting Monday afternoon, then reappointed its two top officials for another year.
Former Albany Mayor Dr. Willie Adams, who previously served eight years on the Aviation Commission, was the choice of his successor, Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, to serve on the commission, and he gave the board a majority health care feel, joining Drs. Bill Mayher, Charles Gillespie and Frank Middleton on the seven-member commission.
Mayher was reappointed board chairman, and Sandy Hillsman -- a non-doctor -- retained his position as vice chairman.
Adams made his presence known in short order, bringing an amicable end to a discussion by disgruntled Southwest Georgia Regional Airport patron John O'Brien. O'Brien had written a guest column that appeared in The Albany Herald criticizing some of the security measures taken by the airport, and he brought some of the concerns mentioned in the column before the board.
Specifically, O'Brien complained about the airport's refusal to allow patrons to park next to the curb adjacent to the airport terminal to pick up passengers, and he complained about the time (30 minutes) allowed for free parking during drop-off and pick-up of passengers.
"Those construction cones are out there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even when there's no construction going on," O'Brien said. "I've never known another airport -- including Hartsfield in Atlanta -- to do that. We're not downtown Atlanta; we're here in the sticks."
Airport Director Yvette Aehle said the no-parking mandate is imposed by Homeland Security.
"We're not allowed to have parking along the curb; it's a security matter," she said. "Just because we're Albany, Georgia doesn't detract from a possible security threat."
After a spirited back-and-forth, Adams brought an end to the discussion.
"Mr. O'Brien, you seem like a reasonable man," Adams said. "We appreciate you bringing this matter to our attention, but we could go 'round and 'round with this all night. I assure you that I will do my part to address your concerns."
Engineer Tom Driggers, who designed the HVAC system for the new terminal currently under construction, was asked by the board about the need to install a large fan to help cool the waiting area in the terminal, and he told board members even if they plan to install such a fan in the future, they should prepare (by installing conduit through which to run electrical wire) now.
Asked if the system he designed is not enough to heat and cool the terminal, Driggers called discussion of the fan a "CYA matter."
"The air-conditioning unit is designed for maximum cooling up to 97-98 degrees," Driggers said. "If we get some of those days where it gets up to 104 degrees, it's going to get warm."
Board member Keith Fletcher said the fan could "come into play during the 2 1/2 percent of the time that the temperatures rise above 98 degrees."
The board voted, however, not to recommend a change order of "no more than $15,000" when construction personnel said it would cost about the same to add a fan later as it would to do it now.
"It doesn't make sense, then, to me to move forward (with the change order)," Hillsman said. "I think we can pull the plug on this."
Aehle said she's been told to prepare to cut 10 percent from the airport's $1.4 million budget, but City Manager James Taylor told the commission he plans to incorporate savings that will impact city departmental budgets across the board.