While the previously proposed downtown civic center sits in limbo, officials are wondering if a new airport terminal building could be the city’s premier conference center.
The Covington Terminal Building Advisory Board met for the first time Wednesday in its effort to decide what a new airport terminal should include.
The first set of plans call for a 7,000-plus square foot, $1.5 million terminal building on the southeast side of the airport with access to Ga. Highway 142.
The terminal would include pilot facilities, a large public waiting area, a large conference room for 20 to 30 people, a small conference room for 10 to 12 people with presentation capabilities, administrative offices, a flight school and a 1,152 square foot restaurant.
However, committee members largely agreed a restaurant in the building didn’t make sense, especially such a small one, and suggested the flight school could be housed at the existing terminal building off Airport Road.
Instead, Roger Harrison, head industry recruiter at the local chamber, lobbied for greater emphasis on a large conference room. He said the room would be used to make presentations to prospective industries, and he would like to see it modeled 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.
In addition, chamber Tourism Director Clara Deemer said the conference room would likely be used by several local groups, as few such meeting facilities currently exist.
Lance Flynn, local pilot and head of the city’s Airport Advisory Committee, asked whether the entire building could be moved next to City Pond, just south of the runway and west of the current proposed site.
He said the location would be ideal for a restaurant, which would have views of both city pond and planes taking off and landing. Other larger metro airports have restaurants in their terminal buildings. He said the location would also allow access via City Pond Road and might make the facility more accessible to the public.
The idea was well received, though that location cannot be developed until the city receives a construction permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the timetable for that is not known.
Covington News Publisher Charles Hill Morris Jr. questioned why the city would spend public money to build a restaurant facility for a private company.
Members raised the alternative idea of only placing the restaurant near City Pond and leaving the terminal building right off Ga. 142. A private company would have to actually build the restaurant, but the land would be set aside for that purpose and a road could connect the restaurant to the terminal. Many members felt a restaurant could draw traffic from City Pond Park and surrounding industries.
Instead of a restaurant, the terminal building will likely have a small catering kitchen attached to the conference room, so that meals can be prepared on site or brought in and served.
Members generally agreed they wanted a smaller, higher-quality building and many were in favor of the building being LEED-certified, an environmental-friendliness standard.
Some members questioned the size of the terminal building because traffic is fairly low at the airport, which has 60 permanent planes tied down or hangered and between seven and 12 flights per day, Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello said.
However, Harrison said the city also has to plan for growth 20 and 30 years down the road. He said there is the possibility that Newton County will see a real economic boom within the next few years. A possible compromise would be to design the terminal building to be able to be expanded in the future.
Flynn said one of the keys for a new building is to have 24/7 access for pilots, which the current building does not have. Improved restrooms and lounge and waiting areas would also be beneficial to pilots.
The board agreed to hold its next meeting at Georgia Power’s Georgia Resource Center to study a possible model for Covington’s terminal conference room.