The tower at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in south Albany has been given a reprieve by the FAA and will continue functioning at least through the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2013.
ALBANY, Ga. -- News was good Friday at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport. Around 3:30 p.m., Airport Director Yvette Aehle announced an email from the Department of Transportation delaying the closing of the airport's tower control center until Sept. 30 -- the end of the federal fiscal year.
The tower had been one of 149 federal contract towers slated for closure by the Federal Aviation Administration on April 7, as a part of the agency's sequestration implementation plan. Closures were later delayed until June 15 in order to resolve multiple legal challenges.
"All of us affected are very happy," Aehle said. "So many of us were working with the FAA and working with our local communities to figure out if we were going to fund the tower, and what the contracts would look like. We're breathing a sigh of relief, but the fight's not over yet."
Aehel said she and others would continue to put pressure on both Georgia senators, as well as U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, to secure funding into fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1.
"Luckily, we have a real ally in Congressman Bishop," Aehle said. "He's on the appropriations committee for transpiration, so we think having him on our side will be a definite boon for us as we move forward. Sen. (Jerry) Moran (a Kansas Republican) originated the amendment to keep the towers open and he's on the transpiration committee as well."
Aehle said that Congress in general has been "very helpful" in its support of keeping the traffic towers open, sending strongly-worded letters to FAA and DOT during the past two weeks.
"It's a little bit of a reprieve," Aehle said.
According to Aehle, as the current closure date approaches, and if federal funding for FY 2014 is not secured, the City Commission will be approached for nine months of tower expense for the airport's fiscal year, which begins July 1.
"Just in case," Aehle said."