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MYR advisory committee recommends $10m renovation of former terminal and other upgrades

The Horry County Airport Advisory Committee voted to recommend going ahead with a $3.5 million facade improvement plan of the old Myrtle Beach International Airport terminal, despite one member’s claim the building will be “mothballed.”

The committee voted to recommend spending more than $10 million on a renovation project at the airport, which consists of opening five more gates, renovating, landscaping and repaving the employee parking lot, and matching the facade of the old terminal with the new one that opened in 2013.

The facade work will cost about $3.5 million, which is slightly more than the $3.2 million the airport planned to use from its reserves for the project. The facade is about 700 feet long, and Pat Apone, director for Horry County’s Department of Airports, said using some of the reserves will delay future projects at the airport.

Committee members Samuel Sarvis and Jon Bourne voted against the recommendation, which will go before the County Council on Tuesday. There have been plans to rent out parts of the old terminal, but airport officials have not found a suitable tenant.

“We don’t know when we’ll have the money to put somebody in it,” Bourne said of the old terminal. “I want everybody to understand that we’re spending $3.5 million to put a facade on a building that perhaps will get mothballed, I’m not using that word loosely, I’m rephrasing exactly what was heard in [the county’s administration] committee... I don’t see where we have to spend $3.5 million to mothball a building. If somebody wanted to use the building tomorrow, we don’t have other funds to upgrade it for use.”

Bourne said he did not like how dipping into the reserves would impact unknown capital improvement projects in the future. He said he would have liked to have seen the project done in an orderly fashion when it was supposed to be done, noting the new terminal is coming up on its second anniversary of opening.

He said he has “not seen a substantial effort” to reduce the price.

“If we have people who want to lease this building, we’re going to need the money to upgrade the electrical, mechanical and interior to put them in, because that generates us money to operate,” Bourne said.

Savings from building the $118 million new terminal came to $4.9 million. The airport budgeted $2 million for the renovation of the old terminal and is dipping into its reserves for $3.2 million to round out the cost of the overall project.

The new plans call for more bathrooms, including a family bathroom and one for service animals. The plans also call for the removal of the canopy at the old terminal.

Chuck Martino, chairman of the advisory committee, said he is confident County Council, which has the final say on the overall project, will do its due diligence as well.

“The budget is what it is,” Martino said. “There’s a lot of time and energy from the county administration staff and the procurement process as well as dealing with the airport management to try and get the prices down to where they need to be at. At the end of the day, that budget discussion is not being taken lightly by County Council.”

Committee member Myra Starnes said the county should explore using the space for storage, which Chris Eldridge, county administrator, said is not out of the question.

“That’s something that we’ve thought about and we’ll look at,” Eldridge said. “I know the airport staff has ideas in the future for [more] flights. There’s a possibility that [the Transportation Security Administration] may need some space and things like that.”

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