At a called meeting on March 6, the Thomaston-Upson Airport Authority authorized Chairman George Hightower and Airport Manager Mitch Ellerbee to enter into a agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to receive a $106,000 grant, which will be used to reduce the debt on the last two hangars built by the authority.
“They (GDOT) scrounged around and found some money and they have to do something with it fairly quickly and we’re one of the places that can use it effectively,” said Hightower. “They are being very kind to us to send that money our way, and we’re very grateful.”
The airport has 104 hangars that it leases - 100 small hangars and four corporate hangars. The hangars have been built through grants agreements with GDOT in which the authority has built and paid for the hangars, with GDOT paying 90 percent of each of the grants back to the authority. The last two hangars, which are corporate hangars, were built for $1.5 million and completed and opened in January 2011. Besides this grant for those hangars, GDOT has paid back funds on two other grants for hangar construction.
Hightower said the authority has been able to make a lot of improvements to the airport because of their relationship with the state.
“We’ve developed everything on the runway side,” said Hightower. “When GDOT needs to distribute grant funds, they like working with us because everything has already been built, versus them providing funding for new construction.”
But authority board member Bob Fletcher credited GDOT’s willingness to work with the authority to the vision of Hightower and Ellerbee towards the future of the airport.
“They see the leadership and vision here through your work,” Fletcher said. “They see that we’re willing to go the extra mile, and they are willing to meeting us halfway.”
Hightower said the authority now owns all the land the airport sits on, and that the grants are being used solely for debt reduction. He added that the airport is a revenue maker for the county.
“At the old airport, we had six hangars. Here we have 104 hangars, and they are almost 100 percent full,” said Hightower. “And they all pay ad valorem taxes.”