Florid Airport Board Weighs Impact of Artifact Find on Sale of Old Airport

Apr. 8--PANAMA CITY -- Artifacts dating back as far as 2000 B.C. will be a topic of discussion at an Airport Authority workshop set for Monday morning.

In anticipation of the sale of the current 713-acre airport site, the Federal Aviation Administration has engaged in an in-depth cultural resource study to determine whether the land holds areas of historic significance, said Airport Authority Executive Director Randy Curtis.

"They did find one area consisting of about an acre," Curtis said. "They feel there are indications of prehistoric occupancy, dating as far back as 2000 B.C."

The site, he said, consists of about an acre near Frankford Avenue.

The FAA and Airport Authority are working out a plan to designate the area as a conservation easement before the airport property is redeveloped.

"They found some ceramic remnants and small pieces of pottery and I think some tools," Curtis said.

Curtis said he has no detailed information about the artifacts found and could not divulge the exact location of the site.

"There is some concern about if we identify it, people coming to dig it up," he said.

He said the easement would not affect the sale of the land, which in 2004 was estimated to be valued at $54 million, though the FAA recently required that the Airport Authority complete an appraisal of the property.

The one-acre easement should not affect airport operations if they continue in the same location indefinitely, Curtis said.

The cultural significance study comes as the Airport Authority works toward relocating the Panama City-Bay County International Airport to about 4,000 acres at West Bay, pending FAA approval.

As part of that relocation effort, the board will also discuss on Monday the new airport, specifically an update and review of the overall design.

They will look, Curtis said, at the design of the airport terminal building and general aviation airfield, as well as landscaping.

"We will also be looking for direction from the board as to certain design criteria," Curtis said.

He said the discussion will involve adding and deleting components, though the overall cost of the airport will remain at current estimates of about $278 million.

"It's pretty much even at this point as far as what we will be looking at deleting, at adding. And some things will simply be identified now that later on would be nice to have if we can afford them," Curtis said.

The workshop will be held at 8 a.m. in the administrative building on the second floor of the airport.