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Aviation commission approves Phase 3 of airport overhaul

ALBANY — Despite bids that jumped from an estimated $2.7 million to $4.2 million, work is a step closer to starting on Phase 3 of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport’s overall upgrade.

Reeves Construction Co. was awarded the project based on its “value-engineered” $3,533,270.50 bid after turning in a low bid of $4.2 million for the project that will include demolition of the old McAfee Terminal, construction of two new parking lots, rehabilitation of two existing parking lots and an expansion of the commercial aircraft apron.

The Albany-Dougherty County Aviation Commission reluctantly approved the bid at its monthly meeting Monday evening after agreeing to some $700,000 in cost reductions through value engineering.

“I’ve been around this business for 20 years, and for a project this size this (cost) is way high,” commission member Sanford Hillsman said.

That led to a discussion of whether it would be cost-effective to rebid the project.

“I think we have to look at this and make a decision about what point we go, ‘Holy cow, we’ve got to rebid this,’” Aviation and Albany City Commissioner Bob Langstaff said.

When City Manager James Taylor told the commission “I don’t see any benefit in going through this process again,” the board voted to cut costs by eliminating such features as an irrigation system ($35,000), landscaping site work ($15,300), specialized walkway lighting ($30,000), furniture ($55,000), a covered pedestrian walkway ($230,000), a new toll booth ($148,000) and specialized parking lot lighting ($188,000).

Another item — colored and stamped concrete sidewalk — had been listed as a possible cut, but the board voted to keep that part of the project, adding $21,184 to the cost.

“Before we approve the bid, we need to make sure there are no items we’ll be sorry we value-engineered out once the job is finished,” Langstaff said. “This is a case where we don’t want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

Airport Director Yvette Aehle, who warned the board that delaying the project — in particular the apron expansion — would jeopardize the airport’s relationship with carrier Delta, said Tuesday she’s relieved the process is moving forward.

“We’ve been working on this project since 2009, and we’ve tried to be meticulous in planning everything and having our money in order,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “We would have liked to start the demolition process as soon as we moved into the new terminal, but it didn’t pan out. Still, I thought we had a good plan going forward, and I was a little shocked (Monday) when everything started kind of falling apart.

“But at the end of the day, I think the commission understood that the bids we received were not that far apart and it was not a good bet that we would get a lower price (through a rebid).”

Aehle told the Aviation Commission Monday that funding for the project would come from the $787,000 left in the airport’s special-purpose local-option sales tax budget, from its Fiscal Year 2013 allocation from the Federal Aviation Administration (generally around $1.2 million) and an advance of $1 million from its 2014 FAA appropriations.

“I don’t know that the FAA would allow us to use that 2014 funding if we rebid the project,” Aehle said.

Those funding sources leave the project some $147,000 short of the total needed for completion. Aehle will ask the Albany City Commission to appropriate the funding needed to complete the project.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the Aviation Commission heard from Woods Way Enterprises principle Daphne Woods about her company’s proposal to provide concessions at the airport. Woods said her proposal is to provide fresh cold sandwiches, salads and breakfast items on a daily basis.

“I know the main problem identified at the airport is the lack of foot traffic,” Woods said. “I have concerns about the lack of traffic, but I’m looking at a partnership possibility and a way to make this work.”

Aehle said she asked Woods to address the commission to let board members know about her interest in providing concessions in the airport’s new terminal. That interest is based on airport officials building out the concessions area in the terminal. When Aehle said she’d approached local architect David Maschke, who had conducted inspections at the airport for project architect the LPA Group of Columbia, S.C., to give her a price on the build-out, Hillsman insisted she get similar prices from other architectural firms.

“I thought David’s knowledge of the building would make it easier for him, but I have no problem with getting prices from other firms,” Aehle said.

Commission member Keith Fletcher said, “I like what (Woods) is proposing. It’s good to know what she can bring to the table, once there’s a table there for her to bring it to.”