The Airport Advisory Commission unanimously agreed at the meeting Thursday to demolish the office building used by McGill Aviation after the company leaves March 31, and will form a committee to plan a celebration for the opening of the new terminal at the city airport, which is under construction and expected to be completed for the new Fixed Base Operator, 8 Flags Aviation, by June 1, behind schedule.
The board decided demolition made financial sense and would remove an “eye sore.” The 18-year-old building was damaged by Hurricane Irma and the roof is covered with tarps.
Airport Manager Nathan Coyle placed repairs at $96,052, after insurance deductions. He said he doesn’t want to lease the building, which he estimated would bring in $16,000 annually.
Mr. Coyle estimated the price of demotion at $22,400.
Board Member Don Edlin agreed the building had to go because, “We’re trying to modernize this place.”
Board Member Paul Behan had another idea: “Can we leave it there to rot?”
There are plans to build new hangars on the site in two years and, he reasoned, it may make financial sense to time the demo work to coincide with the new building project. Mr. Coyle said the idea, rejected by the board, was “excellent, out-of-the-box” thinking.
Mr. Coyle said cold weather in December put the construction of the new terminal behind schedule. He said he would provide a new timeline next week. And, he announced plans to place a trailer at the airport in March for 8 Flags Aviation. The company will work out of the temporary structure until the new building is complete, he said.
8 Flags Aviation has planned several upgrades for the building and the change orders, said Mr. Coyle, will come before the City Commission. The upgrades, to be paid by the company, were not announced. Mr. Coyle said he participated in a ‘legal review’ with the contractor that will change the $4.35 million building cost.
There was discussion — and concern — that technology, such as data collection, power, and phone lines, at the terminal is not up to date. Mr. Coyle said the electronics are “probably obsolete.” He is scheduled to meet with longtime consultant Passero Associate to discuss replacement options and costs, initially estimated at $300,000 and scaled down to about $115,000.
“We don’t want to make a poor decision,” he said.
Board Member Kent McKee questioned communication between the airport and planes. He said he had to fly into Jacksonville three times in the last two months. “I suspect that’s happening more than you might think.”
Brian Eckhard of 8 Flags Aviation said the frequency is “working great.”
Board Member Don Edlin said, “Let’s do something.”
Chair Chuck Colcord asked to defer the issue until next month when technicians “should be able to tell us something.”
Mr. Coyle said he is pursuing a rate analysis and would like to have discussions on capital improvement projects, beyond the five-year plan. He delivered a two-year financial report that he said offered the numbers in an easier to digest format. He said the budget office reports “may not be clear” and that he could “go even simpler.” The board said they liked the new format and requested monthly reports. (The City Commission has also asked for easier-to-read financial reports from the budget office.) According to Mr. Coyle, the airport should end the year with $300,000.
Mr. Coyle said he is pursuing a property appraisal for the land that was recently considered for a Recreational Vehicle Park. While the airport board approved the plan, the idea was squashed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Three City Commissioners attended the meeting, including Commissioner Phil Chapman, Commissioner Chip Ross, and Commissioner Len Kreger, who serves as the board liason.
Mr. Kreger stepped to the speaker podium to ask the board to open the celebration planning committee to a broad range of organizations and residents. “So it becomes an event planned by the community and not just aviators,” he said.
There were suggestions to ask tourism and Chamber of Commerce officials to join the committee.
The board suggested an early June celebration, but Mr. Echardt asked for a later date, possibly in September — when the trailer would be gone and the landscaping has started to fill in.
Mr. Coyle said he would reach out to local aviation clubs and Mr. Colcord volunteered to serve as the board’s liaison.
Mr. Edlin pushed for publicity in aviation industry publications that would generate comments, possibly like this one: “Lord have mercy, look what this terminal has done to celebrate its history!”
The terminal’s design is expected to have a roof line in the shape of a World War II fighter plane known as the F4U Corsair. The planes flew at the Fernandina airport for training missions before heading overseas.
The board discussed plans for a children’s playground at the airport with an aviation theme. According to Mr. Coyle, there are plans to pursue a grant with a one-to-one local match. Mr. Kreger said impact fees could be used for the local funding. “I think the money is there,” he said. The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board approved the idea at the meeting Wednesday.
Board Member George Haffey said there is a popular children’s park with an aviation theme next to the airport in Greenville, South Carolina. “Maybe someone can get information on how they did it,” he said.
According to the website www.kiddingaroundgreenville.com, the park — known as Runway Park — has a real Cessna 310 aircraft that “flies” over the park from its stationary position on a pole near playground equipment.
“Be sure to wear your sunscreen, as this park has little shade and can be very hot during the day. Benches with additional shade and restroom facilities are planned as part of future developments,” states the website.
A family named Levasseur posted a video from a visit last month.
Commissioner Ross stepped to the public speaker podium to introduce himself (he joined the board in December after winning a run-off election against Tim Poynter) and called for input for the city’s Visioning Workshop scheduled for Jan. 24. He gave each board member his email address and cell phone number.
“The more input we have, the better it is,” he said.
Mr. Ross also asked the board to be inclusive. He said many residents have “no godly idea why there’s an airport” in Fernandina Beach and believe the facility is for “a bunch of rich people that go down to the Ritz — and they’re annoyed with the noise.”
He said: “You need to reach out to them.”
Mr. Colcord said, “Very good point. Thank you for bringing that up.”