Atlanta attorney Jimmy McDonald informed the Liberty County Development Authority on Monday that MidCoast Regional Airport will benefit from $1 million in Airport Aid Program funds to extend the runway.
McDonald was hired by the authority in mid-January to lobby for specific appropriations projects and to monitor day-to-day actions for regulatory and legislative activities. The attorney, a Liberty County native, updated the LCDA on the speedy Georgia General Assembly legislative session that just ended. The state legislature approved a $20.8 billion budget, according to McDonald.
The Airport Aid Program was allocated $8 million to improve airports across the state, he said. The $1 million award for MidCoast will be given to the Georgia Department of Transportation for the 1,500-foot runway lengthening project at the local airport, confirmed LCDA CEO Ron Tolley.
“GDOT has indicated the project may start by the end of calendar 2014,” Tolley said. “Several items such as land lease and hanger lease and new hangar construction and all of the permitting required for such still remain, but eliminating the runway-extension issue will be a major accomplishment.”
Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, who serve on the development authority, also are voting members on the airport’s civilian joint-management board along with LCDA Chair Allen Brown. Last October, the board met with a potential industrial client to discuss a proposed lease agreement. The unnamed company’s representatives said that the proposed runway and tarmac expansions are necessary for them to bring in heavy aircraft with wingspans of 84 feet. The proposed runway expansion would extend the runway from 5,000 to 6,500 feet, according to Tolley.
LCDA member and state Rep. Al Williams congratulated McDonald for his lobbying efforts, describing the receipt of the $1 million for the runway expansion as a “herculean” achievement. Williams said it was nearly impossible to acquire funds “south of the gnat line” for anything other than the Savannah Harbor deepening project because funding is more often allocated to transportation-type projects in north Georgia.
“Liberty County has gotten more than its share in the last two or three sessions,” Thomas said, referring to a $4.75 million line item adopted by the Georgia General Assembly during the 2013 legislative session for a new and expanded Armstrong Atlantic State University campus to be built on Hinesville’s Memorial Drive. The Savannah-based university currently has a Liberty Center on East Gen. Stewart Way.
McDonald also recapped news on several bills, those of which passed and those that didn’t. State lawmakers passed a bill that would block Medicaid expansion, he said. A bill on medical marijuana — specifically to allow children with seizure disorders to be treated with cannabis oil — failed, the attorney said. However, a bill to allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons in bars and authorize some educators to carry guns in schools did pass, he said. Permission to carry guns into churches would be left to each individual house of worship, McDonald said.