Official: G-RAMP goal is 2011

WARNER ROBINS — News last week that a point person had been named to oversee the procedure to begin the Georgia-Robins Aerospace Maintenance Partnership came amid a further lag in time to get the project off the ground.

Officials involved say the process will take time to flesh out details, including who will be involved — and how. An ideal situation, G-RAMP committee Chairman Don Jarzynka said, is to have the project up and running before the end of 2011.

“It’s going to take some time, but it’s worth it,” he said. “This is an investment … in the community.”

The environmental assessment is the first major hurdle for the project to cross. Bids are being taken until Wednesday from firms to complete the assessment. After that, Jarzynka said, the city will seek approval from Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, which will use the assessment to determine if space designated by the city for the G-RAMP is up to federal regulations in terms of air, noise and ecological issues. Under the federal guidelines, that means a reputable agency must conclude there is a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” said Gary Lee, director of the Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency, of the FONSI.

The environmental assessment is taking time because it’s critical to the project getting off the ground, Lee said. It’s a more technical process for the city because it has to adhere to federal restrictions.

“We’re tapping into (RAFB’s) taxiway, and we have to use their guidelines,” he said. “It’s going to be city owned but has to meet federal regulations.”

How the project will be financed is still being decided. City officials have spoken of making the project a Middle Georgia region-owned entity. But when the idea of splitting up the expected $200,000 cost of the environmental assessment between the cities and counties where base workers live was proposed, money slowly trickled in or didn’t come at all. Some, like the Bibb County Commission, sought more information before cutting the city of Warner Robins a check.

Officials from the city of Perry, who agreed the project would be a great thing for the region, also requested more information before paying their proposed share.

During the election, the use of private donors also was discussed. Lee said several options are being explored but stopped short of saying whether the city was focused in a specific direction to pay for the project.

“Nothing is concrete,” he said.

G-RAMP would be built in three phases with a number of hangars still to be determined, Lee said. Cost estimates from different members of Warner Robins’ City Council over the last year have been said to be as high as $72.5 million. When complete, estimates are that the project would bring anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs to the region.

Jarzynka said plans for the first phase of the project called for a building with two hangars. He said two hangars would be enough to hold two to four C-130 Hercules, two C-17 Globemaster III or one C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft. The proximity of G-RAMP to the base, and its operations, is ideal for the “synergy” that would make the venture so successful, Jarzynka said.

Lee said the city is eager to get the project going to see its effect on the community, not for any possible effect it could have on future base realignment and closure, or BRAC, lists.

“This is not to BRAC-proof the base,” Lee said. “It’s just another mechanism the city can utilize to generate revenue and show our involvement with the base.”

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 256-9685.