Originally created 09/26/03

Location of terminal becomes issue again



Like a new piece of furniture, the planned location for a new terminal at Augusta Regional Airport has been moved around more than once.

On Thursday, moving pains were again felt as the issue resurfaced among Augusta aviation commissioners. In the end, five commissioners voted to keep things as they are and proceed with a new $30 million structure on the current terminal's site.

"I feel confident that this is the best option we have," Commissioner Chris Cunningham said, referring to building at the current site.

Another option, which was ruled out Thursday, would have built the terminal 300 feet north of the current site, costing an estimated $100,000 less and taking three to four months less to complete. Because that terminal wouldn't have to be built over the current site, construction would have been quicker.

Bill Thompson, a supervisor of aircraft services at Augusta Regional, told aviation commissioners he supports a move to the north because it would keep passengers farther from construction.

"If you move it, it's more convenient to the customer," he said.

Officials of the LPA Group, the consulting firm assisting with the terminal project, said Thursday that moving the terminal to the north would limit the possibility of future expansion to the west and change plans already in place for building at the current site.

"The board should be making a decision on what is the best final product long term," said Robert Anderson, of LPA.

The decision to build at the current site was approved by Mr. Cunningham, Brad Kyzer, Pat Owen, Bernie Silverstein and Bo Bovard. Board members Marcie Wilhelmi, who had previously supported a different midfield terminal location, and Venus Cain were not present.

The midfield location was ruled out in February because of funding problems, causing commissioners to reconsider a plan that involved the current terminal site.

On Thursday, Commissioners Sheila Paulk, Joe Scott and Ernie Smith voted to explore another construction site that hadn't been considered: the site where the airport's hotel will be demolished, west of the current terminal.

"At this point, we need to make sure all our options are looked at equally," said Mrs. Paulk, who made a motion that would have given LPA 30 more days to derive cost estimates and drawings on the proposed site.

"We want to make the best decision that we can make," Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Anderson said a new study on the feasibility of locating the terminal at the hotel would cost the airport an additional $110,000. He said it also would require extra expense for a parking apron for airplanes, new roads and parking lots.

Mrs. Paulk's motion failed.

Work on the new terminal, which officials say is needed to attract low-cost carriers, is expected to begin shortly after Masters Week and take about 28 months to complete.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.