Aviation Commission OKs terminal vending bid

Low bid for project comes in at more than double the cost estimate

Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Director Yvette Aehle said Tuesday morning Phase II demolition work is progressing on schedule at the airport. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Director Yvette Aehle said Tuesday morning Phase II demolition work is progressing on schedule at the airport. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Despite a low bid that came in at more than double cost estimates, the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission voted at its Monday meeting to recommend awarding a bid for a vending area at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport’s new terminal.

Kellerman Construction of Valdosta’s low bid of $92,819 far surpassed Albany-based SRJ Architect’s estimate of “around $40,000” for the vending area that will offer passengers at the airport terminal snack food and coffee options while they await their flights. But the board voted 4-2 to recommend that the project be approved, even with commission members Bob Langstaff and Sanford Hillsman’s stated objections.

“That cost is just too high,” Hillsman, a construction manager, said.

Langstaff, who represents the Albany City Commission on the Aviation Commission, told the board the numbers did not add up for the project.

“Is it time for us to step back and ask, ‘Does the airport need that space?’” Langstaff said. “Can we do something different than spend $130,000 (including furniture, which is not part of the bid) for a snack area?

“When you look at the numbers provided by (proposed vendor) Buffalo Rock, we’re looking to make around $1,000 a year on the vending machines. That’s on a $130,000 investment. I don’t like those numbers.”

When Dr. Frank Middleton offered a motion to accept Kellerman’s low bid following an extended discussion, the motion died for lack of a second. But board member Keith Fletcher, after noting that construction costs aren’t likely to go down and that the funding for the project would come from a fund that has “gone untouched for the last 12 months,” offered the same motion moments later, he, Middleton, Dr. Charles Gillespie and commission Chairman Dr. Bill Mayher voted to approve the funding.

On Tuesday, the Albany City Commission at its work session postponed taking action on the bid until its business meeting next week. City staff had recommended that the City Commission approve it.

Also at the monthly meeting, the board was put in a position of considering a new board member a month after the deadline for application had passed and it had already voted to reappoint Mayher and Gillespie to the commission. In bringing up the agenda item, Mayher said, “You will recall at the last meeting we nominated two people for positions on the board. Ms. Gloria Gaines has since applied and, frankly, it was well after the deadline. But we’ve been asked to address the issue again.”

During a period of questioning candidates, Fletcher asked Gaines why she’d submitted an application to join the board 30 days after the deadline.

“I talked with someone about it, and they said, ‘Go ahead and submit the application, although I don’t know if they’ll consider it,’” Gaines said. She told the board she was seeking a position on the authority because “I have a proclivity for community service and I always try to pay it forward.”

Gaines, Mayher and Gillespie were all nominated for the two seats, and the incumbent board members received the most votes from commission members. The Albany City Commission will take final action on the recommendation.

“We appreciate your interest, and we’ll see how it turns out tomorrow,” Mayher said to Gaines after the vote, referencing the City Commission’s work session.

In her monthly report to the board, Airport Director Yvette Aehle called July “another good month for us,” noting that both enplanements and deplanements were up by more than 10 percent and that 88 percent of all flights were on time with no cancellations.