Albany Aviation Commission trims Southwest Georgia Regional Airport project funds

Albany-Dougherty Aviation board deems canopy, parking spaces unnecessary

This is the exterior of the new terminal at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport on Newton Road. (July 18, 2013)

This is the exterior of the new terminal at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport on Newton Road. (July 18, 2013)

ALBANY — They had to connect with one of their members and their architectural consultant by telephone, but the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission agreed Friday to add a little and take a little away from the Phase 3 demolition and apron expansion project at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.

Working from a “cafeteria list” of value engineering possibilities on the project, whose low bid of $3,668,550.50 was turned in by Reeves Construction Co. of Albany, the board met in a special called session to try and agree on cost-cutting measures that would bring the project more in line with the federal grants and special tax allocations that have been earmarked to fund it.

It was a tedious process, especially given the fact that board member Sanford Hillsman and architectural consultant David Maschke were both out of town and had to take part in the meeting via conference calls. At one point, board member Willie Adams said, “The more we talk, the more confusing it becomes.”

Project Manager James Miorin and Assistant Vice President Mike Reiter of the Norcross-based Michael Baker Jr. Inc. development firm, which bought out the former LPA firm that started the airport project, brought $277,335 in potential cuts to the board for consideration. Most were rejected.

The board eventually voted to eliminate a canopy that was to partially cover the crosswalk between the new terminal building and the airport parking lots, which is expected to save some $240,000 in costs; 48 parking spaces in what will become the facility’s long-term parking lot, projected to save $63,288; and an island in the long-term parking lot expected to save $33,498.

The $336,786 in projected savings was offset, however, by the board’s decision to reinstate $35,000 in costs for an irrigation system previously cut from the project and $70,000 for construction of a new toll booth. Those additions reduced overall savings to $231,786.

“Eliminating the 48 spaces closest to Newton Road seems like a good idea,” board member Bob Langstaff, who represents the Albany City Commission on the Aviation Commission, said. “It actually breaks up the asphalt and makes the overall look more appealing.”

The board rejected a proposal to save $50,077 on improvements in the rental car parking lot.

“I’m concerned about the message that would send to our renters if we failed to (resurface) that lot,” board member Keith Fletcher said.

Board member Charles Gillespie, who had recommended leaving the partially covered walkway in the cost of the project at a previous meeting, reconsidered when Langstaff noted that customers in both long-term and short-term parking lots would still be exposed to inclement weather before reaching the covered portion of the walkway.

“Since the entire walkway is not covered, I guess that defeats the purpose,” Gillespie said. “Therefore, I’m going to withdraw my request for the canopy.”

Immediately after the board voted to eliminate the canopy over the walkway, the long-term parking spaces and the architectural island, Langstaff said he’d been looking at other elements previously considered by the board.

“Now that we’ve taken some money out of the project, I want to talk about putting some back in,” he said. “It seems foolish to approve 100 grand in landscaping at the structure and cut out $35,000 in costs for an irrigation system. How do we propose to keep these landscaped grounds living without irrigation in South Georgia?”

Maschke agreed with Langstaff.

“It doesn’t make sense to invest $100,000 in landscaping and not have irrigation to keep it watered,” the local architect, hired by LPA to conduct inspections at the airport, said. “Over the long run, it’s going to cost you (more than the $35,000) in manpower to keep your grounds watered.”

In a discussion of $15,000 in “secondary landscaping” previously cut by the commission, Board Chairman Bill Mayher said he noted drawings showing decorative trees along Newton Road.

“Tell me about those trees,” Mayher said. “I don’t like that. I’d like to see them eliminated.”

Maschke unsuccessfully defended leaving the trees in the landscaping plan.

“I’m personally a tree proponent,” he said. “They’re crepe myrtles and are never going to grow tall enough to be a nuisance, and I think Albany already has too many barren parking lots with nothing but asphalt.”

Maschke later noted that the Phase 3 project includes some $200,000 in contingency funding that could be used to pay for construction of a new toll booth. Langstaff had suggested that the current booth was nowhere near big enough for toll collectors.

“Of course, that (contingency fund) will be available if we don’t find anything crazy under (the existing McAfee Terminal) once it’s demolished,” Airport Director Yvette Aehle said.

Adams, who abstained in the vote to approve the $70,000 needed to construct the new toll booth, said, “When I look at the cost of that little building, I can’t help but think back to my first house, which cost $15,000.”

Before the meeting adjourned, Mayher asked Langstaff if he thought the City Commission would approve funded needed to complete the project.

“I’ll use all my powers of persuasion to try and convince my colleagues,” Langstaff replied.

Aehle said she would send the proposed changes approved by the board to Reeves Construction for its approval before taking the matter to the city at a Novemebr meeting.

“We just have to have this process done by the city’s Dec. 17 meeting,” she said.