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Airport looking for renters as new terminal is developed

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G.C. Hixson, executive director of JECDB, has submitted architectural plans for his agency’s portion of the second floor but the remaining space that is uncommitted at this time is what’s concerning the commission.

“I feel very good about G.C. and fairly confident about Ricky (Rodriguez),” said Commission Chairman T.O. Cragwall when discussing the possibility of either or both agencies renting space in the new building.

Rodriquez is the executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Mayor Philip Craighead said that the JCEDB would be a more concrete commitment to lease the property. Some members of the commission expressed concerns about the two lessees not staying in the building after the second floor was designed specifically for those them.

“If we go ahead with their needs, will we hurt the building in the future if they don’t stay,” Cragwall asked.

Members of the commission felt it was a bad idea to develop the remaining portion of the second floor that won’t be rented by the JCEDB. Members said that every tenant would want to design the space per their specifications.

Ideas included leaving the remaining portion undeveloped and having the designs drawn in that form. Commission members noted that many businesses use cubicles and don’t require any changes in floor designs.

Jeff Baines, commissioner of public works for the City of Lebanon and an airport commission member, said they could renegotiate the architect’s contract because the designs needed to be finalized at this time.

The contract with the LPA Group totals $96,000 for the structural designs and planning.

“G.C. Hixson (and the JCEDB) is a great opportunity, but this isn’t being done solely for them,” Baines clarified.

The airport will move its offices into the first floor of the new terminal building and use the second floor to create some added income for the airport to help repay debt incurred during the building process.

Commission member John Baugh said that building prices haven’t gone up in the past couple of years, but rather have decreased since the commission began planning the new terminal.

“We need to build right now and take advantage of that,” Baugh said. “We’ve been working on this since back when times were good.”

Funding was another point of concern for the commission as they wondered where they would get the money to build the terminal once designs were finalized. The airport currently has 55 hangars that are being rented to customers and are hoping to expand with federal support to increase their occupancy to bring in more money.

But the airport would wind up taking on $80,000 a year to make up for building the terminal, which Baugh and others said they could not pay. Craighead and Cragwall talked about requesting support from the County and possibly Mt. Juliet if the airport expanded to being under the scope of Wilson County instead of just Lebanon.

The commission was planning on receiving $800,000 from a bond to help pay for the terminal and they’ve had around $350,000 already saved for this purpose.

The commission indicated that it may consider completing the final design of the terminal and holding those plans on the shelf until they can determine how they may be able to accommodate an $80,000 a year payment to repay the construction debt.

In the meantime, the airport would take advantage of federal grants to build new hangars with 90 percent from federal funds and 10 percent from local contributions. The commission will decide formally what course of action to take at its next meeting on Thursday, Jan.6.

Staff writer Patrick Hall may be reached at phall@wilsonpost.com

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