Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Part of Yeager Airport (KCRW) hill collapse to be removed

Out of concern more of the Engineered Material Arresting System (EMAS) at Yeager Airport could continue to collapse and block Elk Twomile Creek, airport officials approved an offer from S&E Clearing and Hydroseeding as an emergency to tear down thousands of cubic yards of material from the collapse.

“About as much as has come down is still up there,” Atkinson said of the fill material. “The fear is if more material comes down ... there’s no way to get (the creek) back open quickly.”

A blocked Elk Twomile Creek could cause flooding as far upstream as the Go-Mart on Greenbrier Street, Atkinson said.

“The amount of damage it could do would far exceed the cost of the mitigation,” he said.

S&E will start from the top of the collapse and work its way down, in all removing about 145,700 cubic yards of fill material. Removal will begin later this week and will continue for about a month.

The entire EMAS structure contained about 1.5 million cubic yards of fill material, but the exact amount that collapsed is still unknown.

The goal of the work is to turn the slope of the collapse into a 1-to-1.5 ratio, which is expected to help stabilize the slide.

However, the airport can’t afford the estimated $855,000 cost of the work, and its property insurance company, AIG Aerospace, won’t cover the expense, Airport Director Rick Atkinson said.

Therefore, the agreement with S&E will include the stipulation that payment will be part of any damages the airport seeks from insurance companies of the engineers and builders of the collapsed structure.

Some board members, including Karen Haddad and Todd Goldman, questioned if the board is permitted to accept the offer from S&E without going through the normal bidding process.

The airport board had declared an emergency situation for expenses from March 11 to 25, but not after that date.

Atkinson said he believed the fill removal as an emergency in its own right because though engineers acknowledge more of the hill will come down, no one is sure when.

Thus the sooner the risk of more property damage is reduced, the better.

Airport board president Ed Hill agreed.

“I don’t see we have a reasonable option,” he said.

In the process of the removal, however, the EMAS will be treated as being out of service, Atkinson said.

Meanwhile, the airport is still trying to figure out how to pay for slide expenses until insurance kicks in as well as how to get residents affected by the slide back on their feet.

So far, the airport has been hit with a financial impact of about $1.2 million, not including the fill removal approved Wednesday.

In addition, Atkinson said the airport has reached settlement agreements with one business owner and one residential property owner to the tune of about $40,000 each, though he didn’t know the exact amounts.

In turn, those property owners have signed full releases with the airport, thereby preventing the airport from being sued.

Any further settlements are on hold, however, after AIG Aerospace informed the airport that making settlements without the insurance company’s consent would make those payouts ineligible for reimbursement from AIG.

In a letter dated April 22, AIG also told the airport it has doubts the airport board is even liable for damages to property owners.

Instead, those claims would be the responsibility of Triad Engineering, which designed the EMAS, and Cast and Baker, which built the structure.

Exact blame for the failure still has not been determined, and five families remain in hotels. An additional displaced family is in an apartment, assistant airport director Kim Lewis said.

Matt Nelson, an attorney appointed by AIG to represent the airport, said negotiations among insurance companies have been ongoing for the past few weeks and an agreement should be reached “very soon.”

In other business, Yeager Airport will lose its direct flight to Dallas in June because of reorganizing of routes by American Airlines, airport officials said Wednesday.

Instead, American will offer a second daily flight to Philadelphia International Airport.

Atkinson said the Dallas flight performed well in terms of passengers, but used a less fuel efficient plane.

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