Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission tables concessions vote

Little interest shown in airport location by food/beverage vendors

ALBANY — With only cursory interest shown by food/beverage vendors, the Albany-Dougherty Aviation Commission has chosen to take a slow approach to building out a concessions space at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport’s new $10 million terminal building.

After a lengthy discussion with architect Sonya Spalinger at the commission’s monthly meeting Monday, the board voted to table an action item that called for a decision on the concessions space. Spalinger had given the commission two options — vending- and tenant-occupied — for the space.

The vending-occupied option, Spalinger explained, would include a small room to separate the facility’s electric transformer and open space for seating around food and beverage vending machines. The expected cost for that option would be $36,146.

The tenant option, which unlike the vending option would require permitting by the Health Department, would have a different set of requirements, such as shelving and cabinetry built specifically for food preparation. The estimated cost for the second option would be $60,479, Spalinger told the board.

“The plan is to lay out the (tenant) space similar to a coffee shop,” the architect said.

Board member Keith Fletcher indicated he was leaning toward the tenant option.

“We’ve built this beautiful airport, and I’d rather build that space out (for a possible tenant),” Fletcher said. “But these costs do not include the cost for furniture, so we really don’t know what we’re looking at here. We’re not really comparing apples to apples.”

Aviation board member and Albany City Commissioner Bob Langstaff said building either option at this time seems premature.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to build it and hope they’ll come,” Langstaff said.

Airport Director Yvette Aehle said Tuesday morning she will make contact with Daphne Woods of FUNction Events to discuss the space. Woods had indicated an interest in providing food and beverages at the airport.

“We haven’t talked in a couple of months, but I will reach out to her before next month’s meeting,” Aehle said. “We’ve talked about options like seeing if a vendor is interested in helping out with capital improvements (in lieu of paying rent). We sent out an RFP (request for proposals) and got no response. Right now Ms. Woods is the only potential tenant we’re talking to.”

Board Chairman Dr. Bill Mayher, who was chosen by the commission to serve in that capacity for another term, said that moving forward with the building project is an amenity that would serve passengers at the airport well.

“I’ve probably flown in and out of more airports than most, and I think if there’s any way to get some food service here, we need to do it,” the chairman said.

Board members Dr. Willie Adams and Dr. Charles Gillespie, both physicians, sparred a bit over the board’s use of a secret ballot to determine chairman and vice chairman for the year. Adams said, “We’re all adults. Why do we need a secret ballot?”

The board voted to reappoint Langstaff as vice chair.