JEFFERSON — Jackson County Airport Manager Bob Stapleton asked Jackson commissioners to consider giving the airport a $500,000 loan for construction projects.
"It takes a lot of nerve to sit here and ask you folks for a loan," he began at this week’s county commission meeting. "But as the airport manager, I’m sure the entire airport authority feels this is something that will energize the economy in our community."
The loan request would let the authority do design and engineering to produce a shovel-ready set of plans to present to the Federal Aviation Administration and Georgia Department of Transportation in hopes of getting money after July 1, Stapleton said.
Chairman Hunter Bicknell said the county commission supported the airport’s plans for expansion, but didn’t feel comfortable offering the money at the present time.
"Personally, I would feel better if we had another month or two, or possibly three. If things continue to improve ... it would be much easier to say, ‘Sure, we’ll loan you the money,’" Bicknell said.
The airport wants to build corporate and private hangar sites, which would cost about $425,000.
The project is designed to "significantly increase revenues through ground leases, increase job opportunities and tax revenues from new businesses and based aircraft," according to supplemental agenda documents.
Stapleton explained that the airport applied for some of the state’s economic impact funding, which totaled $8.2 million, but didn’t receive any of the funds because the airport didn’t have "shovel-ready plans."
Initial plans for funding the construction of corporate and private hanger sites have also been submitted to the state DOT and the FAA, but the airport has not heard from either group.
"But we have been informed and we do know that this is a project that would be reimbursable to us at the rate of 97.5 percent" through the FFA and DOT, Stapleton added.
Finance Director John Hulsey’s budget update earlier in the meeting indicated the county’s local option sales tax collections for January were below budget estimates by 17 percent, or $169,000.
"While January’s sales tax distribution was extremely low, it is too early yet to make an accurate determination on how the collections will trend for the year," the budget documents note.
"We’ve got a lot of demands on our financial resources at this time," Bicknell said. "We’re all for you and you will get the money — it’s just a matter of timing. Or at least, you’ll get my vote to get the money."
Commissioners Bruce Yates, Chaz Hardy and Dwain Smith agreed with Bicknell’s sentiments, though Smith said he’d like to see the airport receive the $500,000 loan sooner.
"I just don’t want ourselves to get too far behind," he said. "We need to get this done as soon as possible. Let’s make it one or two months if possible. I want to see this done."