The Lumberton Regional Airport needs a new terminal building, and according to the airport’s manager, it can’t come too soon.
“The building was built in 1969 and at that time was the prototype for airport terminals across the state,” said Troy Gammon, the airport’s manager for the past 11 months. “This building is more than 46 years old and needs lots of repairs.”
Gammon said the building’s electrical system does not meet code. The out-of-date plumbing is all cast iron. None of the bathrooms comply with the requirements of the American Disabilities Act. The roof leaks. All but one window has been part of the building since it was built.
“We were originally looking at renovations,” Gammon aid. “But to make renovations we would have to gut the building from the inside and start again.”
Gammon said people don’t necessarily complain about the terminal’s shortcomings, but it’s not a first good impression for visitors who arrive by flight.
“People don’t say anything about the condition of the terminal,” he said. “But by what they see they make an initial assessment about the kind of business relationship they will have here.”
Gammon likes to refer to the airport as the “face” of Lumberton and Robeson County. It is a tool, he says, that if utilized properly can be a major key in recruiting new businesses and jobs to the area.
“When a lot of companies come into the area, the first thing they see is the airport,” he said. “We are trying to put a good face on Lumberton and Robeson County.”
Gammon said the airport is used significantly by both commercial and small aircraft.
“The business at the airport is up and down, but we do pretty good for an airport like this,” he said. “Over the course of a year we average 12 flights a day … . We can accommodate large business jets of up to 90,000 pounds. We have a hangar for corporate jets wanting to stay overnight … . Overall there are about 38 to 41 small aircraft based here now. We can accommodate a maximum of 55 aircraft staying an extended time here at any one time.”
Gammon told the Robeson County Board of Commissioners on Monday that local funding — split between the county and the city of Lumberton — will be needed during the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, for the plan to have a new terminal in operation by the end of 2017 to become reality.
According to Gammon, the Lumberton Regional Airport Commission has already hired the architectural firm of Becker/Morgan Group — the same firm that designed the police station in Lumberton — to design and make cost recommendations for a new terminal. The state Division of Aviation, he said, offers grant funding for half — or $564,000 — of what a 4,500-square-foot building would cost.
“The county and city would then have to split the other $564, 000, with each paying 50 percent,” Gammon said.
Gammon said that he hopes the two governing bodies will make the local matching funds available in July when the 2016-17 fiscal budget goes into effect. At that time, a grant application can be filed with the state.
Gammon said that the Aviation Division would not award the grant until at least January of 2017, with construction most likely not being completed until late 2017.
“We don’t know if the state will award us a grant or not,” Gammon told the commissioners. “But if we can have all of our local money in place, the chances improve exponentially that the grant will be awarded.”
Gammon said that if the grant does not materialize, all funding will have to come from other local sources. The only other alternative funding the project, he said, would be to wait and apply another year for the state grant.