Elected officials, along with members of the Baldwin County Regional Airport Committee and others gathered Monday afternoon for an official groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the construction work going on at the airport for its new west apron project.
The majority of the project’s funding will come from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA,) while another five-percent will come from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The remaining five-percent or between $20,000 and $30,000, meanwhile, will come from taxpayers of Baldwin County through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST.)
The chief spokesman for the event, which also was attended by several officials and members of the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce, was Baldwin County Commission Vice Chairman Henry Craig. Also attending the event was Garrett Smith, vice president of Piedmont Mining and Land Company, which is serving as contractor for the west apron project.
The commissioner, a retired pilot and who has for many years supported the local airport and advocated for its growth, said the new project would not be possible if was not for state and federal government officials realizing how important airports are in this country.
“This airport is a front door to our community and brings lots of revenue to our community,” Craig said. “And when people come here to decide whether they want to make an investment in Baldwin County, they don’t come by Greyhound bus.”
In many instances, they travel by airplane.
“And this is the first place in many cases that gives the first impression of Baldwin County,” Craig said. “As we develop this airport, we make new space for hangers so more airplanes can come here, it’s all a part of growing Baldwin County and changing what has happened to us since 2008.”
Craig said the new west apron project is expected to be completed sometime in the spring of 2020.
“Moving the dirt is just one part of it,” he pointed out during an interview with The Union-Recorder.
Paving and other construction aspects will eventually be done, too, as part of the overall project.
The airport was closed for a week recently as construction on the project got underway, according to Bruce Hood, who manages the airport for Sinclair Aviation, the firm that serves as the fixed-based operator.
“And it will be closed for an additional week at the end of the project for various reasons,” Hood said, noting that one of those reasons was to meet guidelines of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.)
Alex Ferrand, a county GIS analyst, who also serves as a liaison between airport committee members and county commissioners, said he appreciated the support of the community for the local airport and the economic value that the airport has on the region as a whole.
“We hope to continue to grow our airport and fly further,” Ferrand said.
Baldwin County Commission Chairman John H. Westmoreland described the Baldwin County Regional Airport as a gem.
“This is a gem and we’re starting to polish our gem,” Westmoreland said.
Asked why he thought the local airport was a gem, Westmoreland replied, “This is just something we just need to do. People need to come here and see it and continue to support the idea of helping polish it.”
Westmoreland said the new west apron project is all part of future economic growth in Baldwin County.
Commissioner Tommy French said he, too, was appreciative of the community’s support that has been received concerning the new west apron project at the airport.
“I really appreciate the airport advisory committee for their support, and all of the excellent work that you guys have done here,” French said.