Originally created 02/18/99

Bush Field solution simple, mayor says



Ending the deadlock over a $20 million airport terminal construction project at Bush Field could be as simple as a pen stroke and a commitment on the part of the airport commission, said Augusta Mayor Bob Young.

The airport commission could just write a $30,000 check to Daniel Field and promise not to negotiate lease agreements with the airlines at Bush Field that would keep the city from transferring more money from Bush to Daniel Field. It could be that simple, the mayor said.

Augusta commissioners budgeted the transfer of $30,000 of Bush Field revenues this year, but the airport board won't write the check and has gone on record opposing the transfer. Its members say it's revenue diversion and cite the former city's $2 million transfer, ostensibly for runway expansion at Daniel Field. The Federal Aviation Administration made the consolidated government pay the money back.

Tuesday, Augusta commissioners blocked the terminal-improvement project with a vote to allow Bush Field to accept a $683,074 airport-improvement grant from the Federal Aviation Administration but denied airport officials permission to proceed with the design. Commissioners said the airport board must approve the money transfer before they could proceed with getting the grant for the design work.

And without the design, Bush Field Manager Al McDill said he can't get agreements from the airlines. So improvements to the 1946 vintage terminal are in jeopardy, which some commissioners privately say is a good thing.

"I think it would be a good step, a good show of faith, a good show of support on the part of the airport commission if they would go ahead and approve the transfer to Daniel Field and give commissioners a letter of intent that they will not negotiate an agreement with the airlines that would preclude the transfer of money from Bush Field to Daniel Field," Mr. Young said.

But the bottom line is that the Augusta Commission can do what it pleases because the city owns both airports, Mr. Young said.

"It's our position that the transfer is legal and that the transfer is proper, and we've included the transfer in our budget.

"So maybe each side doesn't have a clear understanding of the other's role in this big picture. But the bottom line is it's the commission's airport, and the commission can darn well do what it pleases."

Sylvia Cooper can be reached at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.