Originally created 01/23/04

Director tries to land funds for renovation



Augusta Regional Airport isn't the only one planning terminal work these days. Daniel Field Airport has a lofty ambition, too.

"It would just make this place more efficient and more pleasant for visitors," said Buster Boshears, the director of Daniel Field, referring to plans for a renovation to the airport's terminal, which dates back to World War II and was last renovated in 1974.

Mr. Boshears said Daniel Field's terminal no longer is in good shape and has a leaky roof, among other problems. A renovation would fix the problems, update the downstairs, complete a half-finished upstairs with office space and add a new roof to a connected hangar.

In the long run, "it would increase our revenue," Mr. Boshears said, noting that space could be more easily rented out at the airport. Mr. Boshears said the airport has a strict budget and receives no assistance from the city for its day-to-day operations.

But the $1 million needed for the renovation is now included in a proposed list of upcoming special purpose local option sales tax projects. Airport officials say the upgrade is needed as other general aviation airports, including Thomson-McDuffie Regional and Aiken Municipal, recently have conducted renovations or built new terminals.

The Daniel Field renovation would cost about $1.3 million - meaning the airport needs to come up with about $300,000 outside local sales taxes before work could begin.

The project was originally planned in 1995, but Mr. Boshears said the city's consolidation and budget problems prevented it from proceeding.

From that point on, Mr. Boshears said the airport focused on improving its runways. With that work now completed, he said it's time to look back to the terminal renovation.

Raising money for the cost outside the local sales tax presents some logistical problems. Mr. Boshears said the airport wants to hold as many events as possible to help raise money, but the events must be related to aviation.

"The general feeling of (the Augusta General Aviation Commission, which oversees Daniel Field) is events should have some relation to aviation," he said.

One event recently approved by the General Aviation Commission involving a car show for all area car dealers at the airport during either April or May. Commission members approved the show, but only after Chairman Tom Jackson said "we need an aviation link here."

Bert Harbin, a commission member who works for Channel 6 and suggested the car show, said he would offer advertising support for other aviation events at the airport in return.

Mr. Boshears said the airport also allows parking on its grounds during Augusta State University graduations. In return, he said, Augusta State provides airport security during Masters Week.

Still, the biggest source of funds for an airport renovation would come from the special purpose local option sales tax referendum. Augusta Commissioner Tommy Boyles, who recently attended a meeting at the airport, said funding for the Daniel Field renovation has a good chance of staying on a list of projects that will eventually go before voters. The referendum could be voted on as early as this summer or during the presidential election in November.

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