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Airport contract millions below estimate

Posted: Friday, Sep 28th, 2012

• Multi-phase runway work starts soon, complete in 2017

BROOKINGS – Bids for Phase I of the runway reconstruction at Brookings Regional Airport came in a third lower than engineers’ pre-bid estimates, saving millions of dollars in the $19 million project.

Loiseau Construction of Flandreau was the winning bidder with a total cost package of $4.75 million for the job.

The contract was more than $2.25 million under what planners had expected to pay.

In fact all three bidders for the work – including Bowes Construction of Brookings and Midland Contracting of Huron – came in under $5.6 million.

“Thirty-two percent below is a good number,” said Bob Babcock of Aberdeen’s Helms & Associates. Babcock is project engineer for the airport construction.

“We had a lot of items you don’t normally see, with the wetlands mitigation and the creek reroute – things that are tough to nail down with numbers,” Babcock told the council.

“Nevertheless, we’re glad to see (the bidding) come in where it did. We’re going to get the creek rerouted, get the bridge across it for emergency vehicles. We’re also going to do the mitigation site. We’re going to get that work done and about 3,500 feet of grading for the runway.”

At that point, Councilor Tom Bezdichek, grinning broadly, pointed out that with the drought, there no longer seem to be any water problems with the runway site.

“We’ve taken so long,” Bezdichek joked, “I don’t know why we have to do wetland mitigation since there’s no wetlands out there. Six Mile Creek is no longer a creek, because it’s a dry bed. I don’t think there’s any water to speak of. The bridge is only going to go over a ravine because there’s no water underneath it!”

Water or not, the first phase – or dirt-moving portion – of the runway work is a bargain. The Flandreau contractor’s two-part bid included $3.28 million for “Schedule A” work that consists of clearing the property of debris, shrubs and trees, rerouting the existing creek, grading for a portion of the new runway, and construction of an emergency access road and a bridge over the creek. It will also involve wetland mitigation.

“Schedule B” work, costing $1.47 million, will consist of a new equalization basin or pond and storm water and sewer piping.

The City of Brookings will cover 2 percent of the Phase I work, with the state funding 8 percent and the Federal Aviation Administration picking up the balance. The city’s share will be higher on future parts of the work because of cutbacks in federal funding.

For now, however, the bargain price will be to the city’s benefit, Babcock told the council. That’s because the city has qualified for a $7.9 million federal grant for Phase I and should receive the full amount. (State and local matches, 8 percent and 2 percent, respectively, will be approximately $900,000.)

“We were far enough under budget that we plan to add as much Phase II work to it (the grant) as we can,” Babcock said. “We’re working with FAA to see how we can do it.”

By the time the work is completed in 2017, total project costs are expected to be around $18.8 million.

The main runway will be the first to be rebuilt, and the crosswind runway will be finished in 2016-2017.

City officials had hoped that some groundwork could start this fall, but it’s likely that the majority of the Phase I construction will take place next spring.

The city was notified by the FAA six years ago that it had violated airspace regulations near the airport and would have to make corrections. Planning and studies have been ongoing since that time.

Contact Ken Curley at kcurley@-brookingsregister.com.

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