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Airport changed by inches, costs thousands
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The plans for a new terminal at the Covington Municipal Airport is costing the city more than it expected after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came back with faults in the plan after ground had already been broken.

Covington City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said the FAA had problems with the height of the building originally proposed during Monday night’s Covington City Council meeting. The foundation for the building has already been laid, so to lower the height would require a change in materials.

“We’ve got a pad out there,” Knight said. “If you don’t approve this then we can’t build what we want to build because it’s too high.”

Councilman Chris Smith raised the question of why a smaller building would cost more. In the original plan, wood trusses were going to be used to support the roof. With the change in height, steel trusses are required to support the weight, requiring $179,269 more to complete the project.

The wood trusses would have cost $23,000 and the new steel trusses will cost $153,000.

Vincent Passariello, airport engineer, said the height difference at some points is about four inches, while at other points it is about three feet.

“The way they’re having to do the roof, they’re going to have to put steel trusses in there instead of the wood trusses that they were originally anticipating putting in so it does make it larger,” Knight said.

Knight said she is continually working with contractors to lower the costs of the additional work for the city.

“We’re as frustrated as anybody because the FAA did not notify us in the allotted time that they were supposed to that there was an issue with it,” she said. “Unfortunately this is GDOT’s first go-around at funding a terminal building so they don’t want to step on any toes with the FAA.”

Knight said the city has the opportunity to receive funding – up to $150,000 – from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) every year for projects like this and it should be able to recoup most of the extra costs through that.

Covington Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon said the city and airport staff have attempted to contact state and national elected officials for help with the project, but have not made any headway.

“I think it comes down to: Do you want to proceed with a terminal at the airport?” Knight said. “We all want FAA to pay for it.

“We’re fighting the federal government at this point to get that money back.”

The council unanimously voted to approve up to $179,269 to cover the costs of the design change. Work is set to resume Dec. 21.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston said he didn’t think the city had much of a choice in the matter. If the council had delayed its decision there was a chance for additional fees to stop construction.

“In my opinion, it’s terrible, it stinks, but it’s one of those things – the way I’m looking at this – we can say ‘no’ and have a nice pad of concrete out there for a while, and wait until we can figure out some other ways we can do a building, or we can say let’s make a move forward,” he said.

“I also believe that this is an important piece in our economic development process for the City of Covington.”

The Covington Municipal Airport is located at 15200 Airport Road and was established in 1963, according to its website.