By Paul Gable
(Ed. Note – This is the third in a series of articles about the Horry County Department of Airports)
I was happy to see Horry County Council table a budget amendment Tuesday for façade work on the old passenger terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
The action keeps $3.5 million from being spent needlessly since plans for what to do with that portion of the old terminal don’t exist.
Saving $3.5 million is a drop in the bucket of money that has been spent needlessly at the airport over the last 15-20 years.
Nevertheless, it was the right move and I don’t get to say that often about county decisions at the airport.
I only remember agreeing with Horry County Council about airport decisions two other times in that long span.
The first was the cancellation of the west side terminal when the cost of that project was spiraling way out of control, even though it cost the county approximately $25 million of needlessly spent money before it was cancelled.
For those of you who weren’t here in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s time frame, the west side terminal was initially presented at a cost of $110 million. By 2004, the cost of the project had nearly tripled, not counting debt service, with no end in sight. The project was finally cancelled in 2007.
The second was the complete modification of the airport layout plan and approving a joint agreement with the City of Myrtle Beach, limiting Myrtle Beach International to one runway and a maximum of 18 passenger gates.
That finally put an end to the fanciful three runways (which could not be used for simultaneous operations) and up to 36 passenger gates that were included in the former airport layout plan, one that was adopted when a former iteration of county council thought Myrtle Beach International was going to become Cape Canaveral North.
Even after those two flights of fancy were stopped, Horry County Council felt the need to build a new east side passenger terminal at the cost of approximately $120 million when the old terminal could have been expanded to meet passenger needs at a cost of approximately $50 million less.
Remember, passenger growth has been very minimal over the last 15 years.
New terminals do not bring more passengers. Airline decisions, marketing efforts and competitive fees (landing, gas, counter rental and the like) do.
Horry County Council has not completely grasped that concept yet, but, hopefully, it has just taken the first small step.