Originally created 05/12/00

Airport panel OKs new terminal plan



If everything falls just right, Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field could have a brand new terminal in time to welcome those arriving for the Masters Tournament in 2002.

The Augusta Aviation Commission voted unanimously Thursday to move forward with its stalled airport redevelopment plans.

Those plans have been in limbo since last year, when the city opted to put the $22 million project in a holding pattern until contract negotiations with airlines for continued service could be completed.

City Attorney Jim Wall told the aviation commission Thursday he expects the negotiations with the airlines to be completed Monday.

In this scenario, the airport's terminal project would go through the city's Administrative Services Committee and appear on the Augusta Commission's June 6 agenda.

Such a series of events would give the aviation commission approval to complete the terminal development plan, put that plan out for bid, issue airport revenue bonds, award a construction contract and begin construction by as early as next spring.

The Augusta Commission allowed the airport to complete 35 percent of the terminal improvement plan without the airline contracts. Those improvements included new short-term parking, improved roadways around the airport and the demolition of outdated and useless hotel buildings.

The goal is to now have the new terminal 90 to 100 percent complete by the time the Masters rolls around in 2002.

The terminal project is expected to cost $14 million, according to airport consultants. The breakdown: $2.6 million from the federal government, $2.4 million from the current $3 passenger charge, $1.1 million from the city and $8.1 million from bonds.

With new federal legislation that through grants and discretionary funds makes more money than ever available for airport improvement projects like Augusta's, time is of the essence, according to airport consultants.

A delay, according to Chris Garnett of Newton & Associates, could push the entire project back another year.

Aviation board member Jim Wilson is working with U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., to make sure Augusta gets as much funding as possible from the legislation, commonly referred to as AIR 21.

"I think we'd be in good shape if we get our act together," Mr. Wilson said.

Meanwhile, an airport subcommittee working to develop an updated master plan for Bush Field is set to meet with Federal Aviation Administration officials in Atlanta on May 22.

The subcommittee wants to learn what priorities FAA officials would recommend the airport use as it chooses a firm to develop the airport's long-range master plan. The subcommittee also hopes to establish a better working relationship between the Augusta Aviation Commission and the FAA.

Also, Airport Marketing Director David Dorminey is now beginning to develop an advertising campaign for Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field.

It was commission member Rodger Giles who, with his own money, hired John Hall, president of Hall Marketing, to create three sample commercials. The radio commercials, played for the aviation commission, remind listeners of the convenience of Bush Field.

"This was really generated by the fact I heard a commercial on the radio. I think it was an Augusta station or a station out of Columbia that reaches this area, advertising the Columbia Metropolitan Airport," Mr. Giles said.

Columbia is also advertising on local television stations in Aiken and North Augusta.

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.