By Christmas air travelers and visitors to the Covington Municipal Airport may see a brand new terminal anchoring the southeastern corner of the airport near a site that’s now ready for future corporate jet hangers.
But it is like Christmas in April for the Airport Authority and city officials because unexpected state funding will give the terminal a larger footprint.
In 2014 the Covington City Council approved a five-year Capital Improvement Plan to convert the Covington Municipal Airport into a major regional hub such as the Augusta airport. The pieces for that conversion are beginning to fall into place, and recent action by airport officials, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the council paved the way to make the project even better at no extra cost to Covington taxpayers.
When funds became available from another state transportation project that isn’t ready for construction, GDOT officials contacted CMA manager Vincent Passariello.
As the transportation department needs to spend that unused money before the end of the state fiscal year on June 30, Passariello was able to negotiate a deal for GDOT to fund 75 percent of facilities at the terminal that are of service to air travelers. That allows the size of the terminal to increase with an additional paved parking lot and space for future expansion for a revenue-generating business such as a restaurant.
The city’s original budget for the terminal was $1.5 million for 7,200 square feet, which included no parking lot and no future expansion for a restaurant or other service business that can generate revenue for the airport.
Now, with the state funding, the total area has been expanded to 9,019 square feet. The cost to the city will be approximately $1.032 million, which includes $669,713 for areas not eligible for state support such as landscaping.
“So, we went from a $1.5 million budget with no parking and no future expansion to $1 million with parking and future expansion,” Passariello said.
“I think it’s a good deal for everybody,” said airport supervisor Rusty Auglin. “It’s taxpayers’ money no matter how you cut it, but this saved Covington taxpayers money.”
“The airport is a driving economic development force,” Passariello said. “Every large corporation looking to come to Newton County — the first thing they ask is how do we get here? Most of them have or lease private jets to do their business. It’s very, very important. Covington is lucky to have an airport.”
The new terminal is located 1 mile from Interstate 20, which, Passariello pointed out, makes it an ideal location for easy access to and from the destinations of air travelers. Airplanes and automobiles will be able to park adjacent to the terminal.
The terminal will include offices for the staff, large and small conference rooms, pilots’ lounge, waiting area, rental car space and a kitchen area that can be converted to serve a future restaurant.
Sunbelt Builders Inc., a Covington company, will perform the construction, which, according to Passariello, should be completed by the end of this year.
He said a groundbreaking ceremony for the terminal will be held in June.
Infrastructure work by Covington firm Legacy Water Group LLC and Pittman Construction Company in Conyers was completed last week at the site for new corporate hangars near the terminal at the airport’s southeastern parking apron. A retaining wall to divert wastewater was built by Global Stability, an Alpharetta firm.
A future project will be widening of the runway to allow larger aircraft to land at the airport.
In August 2014 Passariello and a planning team headed by David Bernd, vice president for economic development at the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, presented a “Proposed Airport Master Plan,” to the Covington City Council that could provide air service to and from roughly 80 percent of the U.S. business market and 59 percent of the Canada’s. The plan included an industrial park for aviation industries. The city of Covington owns 450 acres adjacent to the airport that could be used for the industrial park.
A successful industrial park could create from 2,000 to 5,000 new jobs, the planners said. According to that report, the Covington airport is accessible to approximately 6.5 million people within a 90-minute drive, an attractive factor for prospective industries.