TIFTON -- Construction of the new Georgia State Patrol Post at the entrance to the Henry Tift Myers Airport should begin in February.

Tift County commissioners voted unanimously Monday and the Tifton-Tift County Airport Authority followed suit Tuesday to support a joint resolution to fund the $1.65 million project through the Tift County Development Authority.

Plans were drawn and redrawn three times in order to accommodate the electronic equipment the GSP requested. Georgia State Patrol officials in Atlanta designed the building to complement the design of the new airport terminal.

The 11,000-square foot facility will be built by Jones Construction Company, the lowest bidder on the project.

Local officials said the presence of the patrol post at the airport will provide much-needed security and have its own backup power system.

As Tift County Commission Chairman, Buddy Bryan has a seat on both the development and airport authorities. He said Wednesday that the presence of the GSP Post at the entrance of the airport will be a deterrent to crime there. He added that several burglaries of electronics on airplanes housed there have occurred in the past.

"The GSP has agreed to monitor a remote camera for us that will be located on the airport premises," Bryan said. "This won't be the primary purpose of the State Patrol's radio operator, but they will have the capability to observe the ramp where planes are parked at night."

The majority of GSP posts in Georgia are owned by the counties where they are located. The GSP post in Tifton has been owned and maintained by the Tift County Board of Commissioners for over 40 years.

"The post at the current location has become too small and it was built with no provisions for female troopers because there were no female troopers at that time," Bryan said. "Over time, some of the living space has been claimed for offices and now the living quarters have been reduced to two rooms.

"At one time, they had four bedrooms there. We want to give them adequate space to increase the size of the detachment here and provide separate living and bathing quarters."

The current post headquarters also requires heavy maintenance at the county's expense.

Bryan said troopers from other posts are sometimes called to Tifton because of illness or special investigations. The larger facility will also allow for more troopers to be assigned to the local post.

"If you have an accident that requires the SCRT (Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team) to be in Tifton, if those troopers are required to stay overnight, they will be able to stay at the post," Bryan said.

Bryan said the Federal Aviation Administration recently awarded the Airport Authority $300,000 that will be used for security. The Tift County Road Department recently cleared a parameter around the airport and a chain link fence around the airport will be funded by the grant money. The FAA must approve the building of the new GSP post, but Bryan expects that to be nothing more than a matter of "some paperwork" before a groundbreaking in February.

According to the Joint Resolution of Tift County, Tift County Development Authority and Tifton-Tift County Airport Authority, Tift County will transfer title and ownership of the current GSP facilities and property off Fulwood Blvd. to the Development Authority. The Airport Authority will then lease the 3.637 acres of land at the airport to the Development Authority for a term of 25 years with an option to extend the term another 25 years.

The Development Authority will use the ownership of the facility on Fulwood Blvd. and the leasehold interest in the acreage at the airport as collateral to borrow up to $1.65 million to build the facility at the airport. Tift County will then sub-lease the airport acres and the new GSP building and pay the Development Authority annual rent payments in amount sufficient to pay the costs and expenses of building the post plus the interest the Development Authority is required to pay to borrow the money and underwrite the project.

Bryan said discussions are under way to decide what can be done with the property on Fulwood Blvd., but the money made from the sale of the land/building will be applied toward the loan on the new GSP facility. Securing a marketing agency is one option that is being considered, Bryan said.

"We want to obtain the most value for the taxpayers of the county," Bryan said. "It's even been mentioned that with some minor modifications, it may be a wash or come close to it, because that property is very valuable out there on I-75."

According to the agreement, proceeds from the sale/use of the property on Fulwood Blvd., and any surplus, will be used to reduce the Development Authority's loan to build the new GSP post.

Airport Authority Chairman Greg Anderson said the addition of the GSP post at the airport will provide needed security.

"I think it's going to be a win-win situation for everybody," Anderson told David Haire, Public Information Officer for the Tift County Sheriff's Office, in an interview Haire taped after the Airport Authority met Tuesday night.

Calls to Anderson and Bob Reinhardt of the Development Authority weren't returned before presstime Wednesday.

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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