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Board to study airport terminal plan
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Covington officials want a new airport terminal building to be an impressive entrance to the city with state-of-the-art conference facilities.

The Covington City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to form an ad hoc board to give input on what they'd like in a new 7,000-plus square foot, $1.5 million terminal building.

The terminal will be located off Nisshinbo Drive, off Ga. Highway 142, to make the airport more accessible to both Interstate 20 and the city of Covington. Currently, the airport can only be accessed off Airport Road.

An initial concept design of the terminal building was shown at Tuesday's council meeting. The concept called for:

- pilot facilities suitable for several corporate crews
- public waiting and support areas for several flights
- large conference room for 20 to 30 people with storage
- small conference room for 10 to 12 people with presentation capabilities
- airport manager office with space for records and a future assistant
- line crew space for two to three people and a manager
- flight school with two to three trainers, a receptionist, testing cubicle and use of space for a classroom
- potential space for a restaurant (kitchen and upfit by tenant)
- potential for a covered drive-thru entry on landside, must accommodate bus traffic in height

The board will have nine members, including Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello and City Manager Steve Horton who chose the remaining seven members.

Confirmed members include The Covington News' Publisher Charles Hill Morris Jr. and Roger Harrison, senior vice president of economic development at the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

The board's first meeting will be at 3 p.m. Jan. 11 at City Hall; all meetings of city council-formed authorities, boards and committees are open to the public.

Harrison said at Thursday's Newton County Industrial Development Authority meeting that he wants to model the terminal's conference center after Georgia Power's Georgia Resource Center, a facility in downtown Atlanta with state-of-the-art technology that is heavily used in industrial recruitment efforts.

He hopes the board will look at other successful terminal buildings around the state and try to design the best terminal building in Georgia for a community of Covington's size.

Passariello said the terminal building will offer facilities that Covington doesn't have. The current building at the airport was built a decade ago and is only designed to house an airport management company, he said.
"If a company comes here and you want to make a presentation, we don't have a facility similar to what we're proposing. Maybe a room at the Chamber of Commerce, maybe a room at City Hall, half a room at one of the hotels, but we don't have a room to accommodate those people," Passariello said Wednesday.

"If you want to have a graduation party for your son or daughter this could be the facility. It will be very well located, very well managed, and have all the facilities you need.

"This will be a completely different image (for the city.) We're building this terminal for the future. We want to move forward and have this as an icon for the airport and Covington."

A small restaurant could also be included. The concept shows a 1,152 square foot restaurant, not including a possible outside patio section. For comparison, LongHorn Steakhouse is 5,580 square feet according to the Newton County Tax Assessor's website.

Passariello said Tuesday that the entrance of the building would be designed to incorporate Covington's character, including columns like those present on Covington's famous antebellum homes.

The city will partially pay for the terminal using $500,000 in 2011 SPLOST funds, and the city is expecting to receive a $500,000 grant from the OneGeorgia Authority. The city would contribute the remaining $500,000.

Passariello said the city is also open to corporate sponsorships for the building.

The Covington Municipal Airport has approximately 60 permanent planes tied down or hangered at the airport and has between seven and 12 flights per day.