Since the county’s $180,000 contribution had not yet been restored to the budget, funding was a major concern at the meeting. Griffin-Spalding County Airport Director Robert Mohl said the issue of funding had to be addressed before they moved forward with anything.
Carl Pruett, a county representative on the airport advisory board, said $15 million will need to be spent on airport maintenance in the coming years. For just a little more than that, the new airport could be built. Griffin Mayor Dick Morrow said if the future site of the new airport is annexed to the city, both the city and county can equally benefit from the project.
He also said the existing airport is too small to support itself. Carol Comer, aviation programs manager for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said the airport generates $130,000 in ad valorem taxes from the properties and from the aircraft. Morrow added it requires $200,000 in subsidies to keep it going.
Griffin Director of Planning and Development Services Frederick Gardiner said a $22 million jet would generate $138,000 in ad valorem taxes for the county and $70,000 for the city if it was based there.
Gardiner also said there is 21 percent unemployment in the area near the proposed airport sites, a problem that building the new airport could solve.
City Manager Kenny Smith warned if something is not done, smaller communities like Thomaston would build airports of their own. If it is not modernized, Griffin-Spalding County Airport will “dry up and blow away.”
Another issue discussed at the meeting was how the airport should be governed.
Comer said the Federal Aviation Administration requires three qualifications of any entity governing an airport. The first is ownership of the land, the second is ability to control the land around the airport and the third is revenue-producing tools like the ability to sell bonds or levy taxes.