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Final meeting conducted at airport terminal

A traveler walks into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport terminal in this undated file photo.

A traveler walks into the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport terminal in this undated file photo.

ALBANY, Ga. -- While Monday's Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission meeting at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport was somewhat anticlimactic -- a mix of good-news, bad-news reports and the polishing off of a few items of unfinished business -- it was historic nonetheless.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, Monday's meeting will be the last ever at the airport's old terminal. The commission's July 29 meeting is scheduled for a space at the new terminal, which is scheduled to open for public use July 10.

Airport officials will hold an invitation-only dedication ceremony July 15.

"I'm sure I'll feel a little nostalgic about this building when they're ready to bring the wrecking ball in," Airport Director Yvette Aehle said before Monday's meeting. "This terminal has been here since when I was a little girl. It's served the community well, but its time has come."

Aehle later offered a mix of good news -- revenue projections on target as Fiscal Year 2013 comes to an end; expenses at only 81.9 percent of budget 92 percent into the budget year; a 6.1 percent increase in takeoffs and landings over last year; no flight cancellations during the past month -- with bad -- aviation fuel sales down in excess of 70 percent over last year; enplacements down 4.2 percent from 2012.

The positive cancellation and on-time flight numbers (well above national averages) generated talk among board members of a need to better educate the public on the airport's attributes.

"I still hear people say they don't fly out of the airport because of all the flights being canceled, and that's just not true," board member Keith Fletcher said.

Aehle said talk of local cancellations and of ticket costs that are always significantly higher than flights originating out of Atlanta have persisted for years, but she said local passengers would do well to make comparisons.

"Yes, sadly, it is less expensive to drive to Atlanta for some flights," she said. "But I ask that fliers at least do the comparisons. It doesn't always cost more, and sometimes the cost is only slightly more than a flight originating out of Atlanta. It becomes a question of is my time (six hours-plus round-trip) worth the extra $40 to $50 I'll save by driving to Atlanta?"

Board member Dr. Willie Adams suggested that Aehle conduct a survey to find ways that the airport can better serve metro area passengers who fly but rarely use the local airport. The director said she'd start working on such a survey as soon as the changeover to the new terminal takes place.

In other business, the commission gave authorization for site work to commence on the Federal Aviation Administration's communications building. The $58,900 work will be paid for with 90 percent FAA funds and 10 percent special-purpose local-option sales tax funding.

The board also voted to recommend to the Albany City Commission that board members Sanford Hillsman and Dr. Frank Middleton be approved for new three-year terms. The board members were the only ones to apply to fill their expiring terms.