Originally created 09/30/05

Airport parking may get self-serve option



Augusta Regional Airport officials are trying to cash in on the popularity of credit cards.

During Thursday's Aviation Commission meeting, members approved spending up to $60,000 to buy new equipment that will allow passengers to pay for short- and long-term parking with a credit card.

Right now patrons must drive through a manned booth to make their payment. Once the ticket in/credit card out machines are in place, customers can choose the machine or the booth.

It might seem like a small change, but Airport Marketing Director Diane Johnston said it "will really make an improvement."

No longer will there be lines to get out of the two parking lots, and drivers will have a choice about their method of payment, which is valuable in terms of customer service, she said.

Plus, Augusta Regional Finance Director Tammy Strange said, the current equipment is obsolete.

"In the very near future, we won't be able to get the parts anymore," she said. "This will make the system much more up-to-date."

Before the equipment can be ordered and installed, however, funding must be approved by the Augusta-Richmond County government. The Aviation Commission members voted to spend as much as $60,000, but the amount used also could be less, Ms. Strange said.

Since 2001, Columbia-based Republic/Payne Parking Systems has been contracted to manage, operate and market the airport's parking system.

In 2004, parking revenue accounted for more than $1 million, according to Augusta Regional financial figures.

On Thursday, commission members voted to approve Republic's contract with the facility for a one-year period beginning Jan. 1. The expense to the airport will be about $156,000.

At the monthly meeting, Commissioner Bernie Silverstein also released the results of Airport Director Buster Boshears' long-awaited annual performance review, which featured nothing but praise for Mr. Boshears, whose director status was made permanent in May 2004.

"He's sort of quiet, but he's very effective," Mr. Silverstein said in reading from the evaluation. "Behind the scenes he's well thought of, a great problem solver, a great communicator."

The evaluation, which includes input from all members of the commission, also complimented Mr. Boshears on his ability to keep the commission apprised of all airport matters, his leadership in securing bonds to pay for the new terminal and the fact that federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, have great respect for him.

Before Mr. Boshears' arrival, controversy swirled around the airport when former Director Ken Kraemer was fired.

Making reference to the rocky period after Mr. Kraemer's departure, Mr. Silverstein credited Mr. Boshears with having a "calming effect" over the staff.

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.