invisible hit counter
Airport repairs prove costly
ST. MARYS -- Damage to runway lights caused by vandals at the St. Marys Airport is considerably higher than originally estimated.

And there's a problem with that. It's more than the commission can afford just now.

Hours after the damage was discovered Monday morning by Jeff Stanford, the airport's fixed-base operator, estimated the damage to 44 smashed runway light lenses and bulbs at about $2,000.

When a representative from Baxley-based Trinity Electrical Services assessed the damage Thursday, however, he estimated it will cost $12,677, including repairs to a runway regulator. Any light transformers that are damaged after sockets and bulbs are repaired will cost an additional $125 each to replace.

"This is a substantial amount," said St. Marys Airport Authority lawyer Jim Stein. "The authority is basically broke.

"This is major, and, if anyone is caught, we will certainly be requesting that there be restitution."

Acts of vandalism resulting in more than $500 in damages is a felony.

"This is not a minor thing," he said.

Stein said authority members are still waiting for an insurance adjuster to assess the damage to determine the deductible they will have to pay.

Either way, the authority doesn't have the money to pay for its share of damages.

"We don't know what they will cover," Stein said of the airport's insurance carrier. "It's a major expense. The authority is pushed on funds, and this may fall back to the city."

No night takeoffs or landings will be allowed at the airport until the damage is repaired, he said.

Luckily, a twin engine turbo prop aircraft that landed Monday before the damage was discovered only sustained minor damage when it struck debris. Stein said if broken glass would have been sucked into the six-passenger plane's intake ports, it could have caused as much as $500,000 in damage to the engine.

St. Marys Police Lt. Shannon Brock said the investigation is ongoing, but no suspects have been identified.

Anyone with information is asked to contact St. Marys Police at 882-4488.

* Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

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