Seabury Airline Planning Group's contract with Augusta Regional Airport is more than halfway up, yet aviation commission Chairman Cedric Johnson can't recall a single task the consultant group has accomplished.
"I know they did something recently, but you'll have to ask Buster," Mr. Johnson said, referring to airport Director Buster Boshears.
Longtime aviation Commissioner Bernie Silverstein said he wouldn't speak on the record about the Virginia-based group because he, too, was unfamiliar with what it's done.
Commissioners hired Seabury in March to serve as an air service development consultant for Augusta Regional for a year. Seabury Vice President Joel Antolini said in April he hoped to accomplish two distinct goals: land another carrier and improve the existing airlines' service.
The agreement when Seabury was hired was not to dole out a salary or set fee but to pay consultants along the way according to what they did.
So far the airport has paid $20,000 to Seabury. But what has the group done for this money?
Mr. Boshears said that when Continental Express officials indicated in August that they were thinking of scrapping service in Augusta, Seabury compiled information comparing the Garden City's ticket prices and flight times with those of other cities.
"The research was in case we had the chance to make an argument for them to stay," he said.
As it happened, Mr. Boshears and Mr. Antolini did get the opportunity to make one last-ditch presentation to Continental, trying to convince the carrier to stay. In the end, Continental did leave.
The price tag for Seabury's work with Continental came to $9,600, according to airport Finance Director Tammy Strange. This does not take into account the $25,000 Augusta Regional paid Seabury the summer before to conduct a study on the airline's low business-travel numbers.
Mr. Boshears said that in April, Mr. Antolini came to Augusta when Independence Air visited the airport during Masters Week. Thus far, Independence officials have said they will not be starting service in Augusta.
Most recently Seabury has provided Augusta Regional officials with statistics on current and projected passenger numbers and budget figures in order to take out bonds to pay for the new terminal.
Ms. Strange said for this work Seabury has been compensated $9,500.
For both the terminal financing research and the Continental studies, Mr. Boshears was able to approve the payouts without the aviation commission's approval.
Ms. Strange said policy dictates that the airport director must bring expense requests to the commission only if they are more than $10,000.
Mr. Antolini did not return repeated phone messages this week, but Mr. Boshears said he thinks the tasks he has asked Mr. Antolini to do for the airport have been completed sufficiently.
When the new marketing director is in place, Seabury's role will surely grow, he said.
Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or email@example.com.
Here are Augusta Regional Airport's other consultants, what they do and how much they're making.
The LPA Group: The group has been paid $1.6 million for design work on the new terminal and several runway and fencing projects and for helping secure funding for the terminal.
Ricondo & Associates: The group has been paid $233,000 for helping with the financial plan for the terminal and for putting together a rates and charges ordinance for the airlines.