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August 20, 2018
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Commssion looks to renovate airport terminal

By Tia Lyons
This article was published December 12, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

With a roof replacement nearing completion for South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field, the El Dorado Airport Commission is looking ahead toward a rehabilitation of the airport terminal.

During a regular monthly meeting Monday, commissioners and city officials discussed how best to go about drumming up support for the project and identifying potential funding sources.

“We need to get it out of our craw and see if we can do it or not,” Mayor Frank Hash declared during a lengthy discussion about the matter.

Mickey Murfee, chairman of the commission, noted that the roof was to have been included in an overall restoration project for the terminal.

However, with a preliminary budget estimate of $2.1 million — the original budget estimate of $1.9 million in 2015 was updated earlier this year —, commissioners agreed that the project may have to be done in phases.

“The roof got to be a critical issue, and we needed to stabilize the building,” Murfee said.

The leaky roof had long been an issue for the post-World War II era terminal building, and commissioners worked for much of 2017 to find funding to replace the roof before winter set in.

Blake Dunn, of CADM Architecture, Inc., who drafted the master renovation plan, advised commissioners earlier this year that the deterioration of the roof was accelerating.

City officials and commissioners agreed when Dunn said the roof would not likely make it through another winter.

With a mix of a 50/50 matching grant from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics and a match of up to $64,600 from the El Dorado Works economic development tax, work began last week on the roof repairs.

Dunn said he expects the project to be completed within another week or so.

Prior to the start of the airport commission meeting Monday, commissioners made a trip to the roof on the second floor of terminal building to check out the progress of the job.

Later, Commissioner Aubra Anthony said feedback from the state about the 50/50 grant was encouraging, adding that another grant from the ADA to assist with the rehab project is a strong possibility.

Another possible funding source is the Arkansas Department of Heritage, given the interest that local, state and federal historic preservation officials showed in saving the building when the commission initially voted in 2015 to raze the terminal and build a new one.

To tap into private funding, Anthony said the commission needs to put together a presentation outlining the conceptual design for the rehabilitation project.

While researching the matter, Anthony said he spoke with Commissioner Gary Harrell, former airport manager, and learned that “a good bit of private funding has come into this building over the years.”

“There’s a lot of personal interest, as we saw in the discussions about whether it should be rehabilitated or rebuilt,” Anthony said.

“Part of it is you’ve got to have something to show people what it is we agreed to do, where the money is going, and when we think we’re going to do something,” he continued. “I think we need to do something in 2018.”

Hash asked if commissioners had nailed down what they wanted to see in a restored facility.

The comprehensive improvement plan drafted by CADM includes upgrades to the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and an internal facelift.

Depending on the funding, Murfee said the first floor renovation would be the top priority if the cost of the entire project could not be covered.

With the modifications on the first floor, the existing long, singular ticket counter would be replaced with two smaller circular counters to serve different functions — airline operations and the car rental business.

The area east of the counters would be converted into a meeting/conference room.

The airport’s fixed base operation and pilots’ lounge would make up the west side of the ground floor, with the pilots’ lounge containing a kitchen, flight planning room, shower, water closet, lavatory, etc.

Dunn previously said that placing the fixed base operation’s point-of-sale functions and storage area near the west entrance would give airport staff a better vantage point of the comings-and-goings of the terminal.

The door to the lobby would also be locked and the fixed base, operation secured at night, while the west entrance and access would remain open to the pilots’ lounge.

Also anchoring the west side of the terminal would be a sitting/waiting area for pilots and other general aviation enthusiasts “who want to be part of the hustle and bustle” of the airport, Dunn said.

A gallery displaying the history of El Dorado and aviation in the area would also make up the waiting area.

An airport commission subcommittee reviewed and tweaked the conceptual design earlier this year.

Anthony said the commission could form a nonprofit organization to raise the remainder of the funding, save the cost of the roof, that is needed for the rehab project.

Commissioner Scott Cowling reminded the group that Dunn suggested that the job be completed all at once since it will include an overhaul of the terminal’s building systems.

“We’re going to have to find out where we need to tackle the bulk of it. Whether it’s the ADH, ADA or El Dorado Works, there’s still a gap there,” Hash said. “It’s going to take some real creative thinking to jump that shark.”

Cowling agreed with Anthony, saying, “We’ve got a leg up on costs, we’ve got a plan, now it’s a matter of getting a presentation together.”

Anthony said the group also needs to come up with a game plan to approach the ADA.

Hash and several commissioners said the effort to secure the grant for the roofing project went over well with state officials.

Commissioners directly contacted ADA officials and pursued other funding sources, namely the El Dorado Works tax.

“I think what swung the deal with the ADA is that we had some teeth in the game,” Murfee said.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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