Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta-Lowndes County Airport Authority and local dignitaries gathered Wednesday morning to break ground on the Valdosta Regional Airport's new Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Station (ARFF).
“We are very excited about this new building,” said executive director and manager of the Valdosta Regional Airport Jim Galloway.
As master of ceremony, Galloway told the airport's unique and distinguished history.
The airport was constructed prior to World War II as an auxiliary landing area to Moody Field. After the war, the United States government transferred the airport to the City of Valdosta as a public use airport.
In May of 1987, the airport authority was formed as a political subdivision of the state of Georgia and the City of Valdosta transferred ownership of the airport to the authority.
The airport now boasts the third longest runway in Georgia and is one of only nine commercial service airports in the state.
“As such, the airport is eligible for participation in the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Program which, through annual grants, makes up the great majority of funding for airport projects,” said Galloway. “To date, there has been over $20 million in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) money invested in the airport.”
Most recently, the airport took delivery and put into service a new ARFF vehicle known as Rescue 7.
“It complements its older sibling, Rescue 71, and gives us welcomed redundancy in our ARFF capability,” said Galloway.
Galloway pointed out that while the airport owns the ARFF equipment and station, they contract with the City of Valdosta to man the station with specially trained fire fighters.
As is the case with the airport, the ARFF station too has a long history. The existing ARFF station was built in the mid-1970's.
"While it has served us well, it is time to take advantage of improvements available today," said Galloway.
The project totals nearly $3 million that is 90 percent funded by federal grant money, 2.5 percent funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the remainder through fees collected from commercial services users of the Valdosta Airport.
The project, which is divided into phases, will begin later this month. The first phase will be to prepare the site and build a new, roughly 900 square foot building to house the FAA communications equipment.
Once the equipment is relocated, the existing building housing the equipment will be demolished and will free up the area that will become the site of the new 8,100 square foot ARFF station.
The new ARFF station will have all the bells and whistles featuring two pull through high bays for the vehicles, rooms for decontaminations, first aid and training.
Additionally, it will have the rooms and capability to wash firefighter's gear and recharge their self-contained breathing apparatus, “which are both functions that currently have to be performed off site," said Galloway.
The living quarters will consist of a kitchen, day room, four dorm room and an office.
After the completion of the new ARFF station, the old ARFF station will be demolished and the site will be used to create a sweeping U-turn for the trucks to enter bays from the rear of the building and finish out with paving and fencing.
"We anticipate the project will take up to 15 months to complete and there are local contractors performing the work, keeping the dollars right here in our region," said Galloway.
According to Galloway, 90 percent of the money is coming from outside of the region, but the money is being spent and poured back into our local area.
As chairman of the airport authority Steve Everett pointed out, the new ARFF station will not just be an on-site upgrade, but it will be setting a new standard.
"We're setting the stage for this side of the airport," said Everett. "We're hoping this building will set the stage for new buildings in the future."
According to Everett, he hopes that a new terminal and control tower will follow soon in the future.
"The progress here at the airport isn't just progress for the airport, but progress for Valdosta, progress for Lowndes County and progress for South Georgia," said Everett.