The Union Recorder

January 9, 2014

County: Airport requires better consulting services

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE —

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently eliminated night approaches at the Baldwin County Airport, which practically closed the facility to key users.

According to the Airport Advisory Committee, no one saw it coming and luckily the issues were resolved a week or so later.

During Tuesday’s regular meeting, the Baldwin County Commissioners passed three recommendations presented by Airport Advisory Committee chair Jim Wolfgang for better consulting services, support and resources ensuring a similar occurrence never happens again.

The county board created the Airport Advisory Committee last year to maintain and grow a valuable community resource.

The airport’s current consultant is engineer Doug Hawkins, who is working on a five-year agreement. A termination clause exists for this particular consultant.

“With the complexity of the FAA, liability and legal matters, we need more than an engineer,” Wolfgang said. “We need someone who understands and has contacts within the FAA that can help us move toward the future and stay out of trouble.”

The advisory committee will develop an RFP for an Aviation Consulting Team capable of wider support.

Wolfgang said this firm would provide proactive input to the county and airport committee.

“The posting of the RFP will not cost the count any funds, and we can determine what possibilities exist,” he said.

Also, the county approved a recommendation that if a critical or emergency situation stretched beyond the capabilities of the consulting engineer, support staff could negotiate with other firms for specific services on a one-time basis. This would cover key components, while still working under the current consulting engineer setup.

“Case in point, with the airport closed to night approaches besides the business side we couldn’t have gotten any medivac helicopters or planes in here,” Wolfgang said. “We don’t have time to sort these things out. We need to act.”

The final approved recommendation from the airport committee requested that an informational meeting with representatives from the county commission, Milledgeville City Council, Development Authority of Milledgeville-Baldwin County explore ways to work together assuring the growth and stability of a key airport resource.

“How can we pull those resources together and take some burden off the county? It’s a good airport, but it just is not keeping up with where we need to be,” Wolfgang said.

The county approved just under an $80,000 budget line item for the airport for fiscal year 2014. 

The Development Authority already has $15,000 earmarked for facility improvements. More community buy in could make a world of difference, according to the county.

“The airport is a unique economic opportunity for our community,” Commissioner Henry Craig, District 4, said Tuesday. “It is Milledgeville and Baldwin County’s airport. Allowing a greater opportunity for those a around us to participate is worth exploring.”

County Manager Ralph McMullen said everyone is on the same page with these airport service items.

“We aren’t receiving what we need from our current engineer,” McMullen said. “It’s becoming a very good airport that needs an infusion of some money and energy. We need to put together a team of high energy people that want to see this area grow.”