Macon OKs pact to move airline into terminal

Macon City Council’s Public Properties Committee on Tuesday approved a contract with Georgia Skies that will move the airline into the terminal at Middle Georgia Regional Airport.

The airline, which replaced Atlantic Southeast Airlines last year as the midstate’s primary passenger carrier, has been flying out of the privately owned Lowe Aviation building at the airport while negotiating various deals to fully develop its services. Georgia Skies still has not secured gate space at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, but officials hope that will occur in the next 30 days, said Scott Coffman, manager of the Macon airport.

“That’s still hearsay at this point, but most of their issues have been resolved,” Coffman said. A stumbling block has been gate fees the company would face in Atlanta, which would lead to higher ticket prices.

Once Georgia Skies acquires gate access, passengers will be able to check their luggage in Macon and transfer seamlessly to connecting flights in Atlanta without having to go back through security after they land, as they do now. At $39 each way, Coffman said Georgia Skies offers a good deal to travelers.

“I think with a little bit of advertising, they’ll be all right,” he said.

Georgia Skies’ operations are subsidized by the federal government’s Essential Air Service program, which provides money for airlines to fly out of communities that normally might not be served. The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the funds to the company last year over two others after ASA decided to stop flying out of Macon.

In other business Tuesday, Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration stepped back from its request that the committee endorse a yet-to-be-worked out deal involving land swaps, NewTown Macon and the Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority for the expansion of Rosa Parks Square.

Reichert still wants to enlarge the civic space but has revived negotiations with a group of Warner Robins doctors who own the neighboring Shriners building, a property that is key to completing the transaction, said Keith Moffett, the mayor’s director of internal affairs. Initially, the mayor said NewTown Macon would have to exercise its right to repurchase the Shrine building it once owned for the vision of a more developed square to be realized.

That may not be necessary now depending on how conversations proceed, Moffett said.

“At this time, there’s no need to take action,” he said.

Developing the square is not a new idea. Progress has been made on it over the past few decades, including the rerouting of Cotton Avenue during the 1990s to help create the space in the first place. A conceptual plan for the final project already had been commissioned by the Urban Development Authority before that. That same plan is what officials are looking at for inspiration today. It shows a terraced greenspace, multiple rows of trees and a reflecting pool with a waterfall. The development envisioned is estimated to cost about $1.1 million.

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.