Friday, February 2, 2018

Lakeland Airport (KARV) fence project funding a question mark: Getting the project done all at once may or may not happen

The Lakeland Airport Commission had the chance last week to review the design, to this point, of a 10-foot high perimeter fence for the facility.

The fence is estimated to cost between $1 million and $1.5 million, 90 percent of it paid for with funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Five percent will come from the state of Wisconsin and the airport commission has approximately $300,000 set aside to handle its share.

The purpose for the fence is safety, its intent to dramatically reduce the amount of wildlife - primarily deer - that end up on airport runways, a safety hazard for aircraft taking off or landing.

Up until now, members of the commission had been under the impression they had the 90 percent in funding for the fence project from the federal government.

During the commission's December meeting they were told by Matt Yentz of Strand Associates, the firm responsible for the fence's design, his understanding was the federal and state funding probably wouldn't be available before September 2018, but he could get that confirmed with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Bureau of Aeronautics (BOA).

"Even if we were done and ready (with plans), we wouldn't bid the project until the money's available to you," Yentz said. "So it's probably a fall thing. Maybe even a winter thing. It won't take a year to design this for you but just to get all the pieces in place ... advertise it, bid it, award it, get somebody out here."

He said it wasn't unreasonable for that part of the process to take up to three months for a project like this.

"I think November would be a nice time of year to be doing the work," Yentz said.

At last week's meeting, however, they heard some information regarding funding which might mean having to do the fence in sections instead of all at once.

'What you can do'

Yentz couldn't make it to last week's meeting so Josh Pachniak of Strand Associates went over the plans with the commission, taking their input and answering questions.

Matt Messina, an airport development engineer with the BOA, also provided an update on the funding piece.

"Funding wise, we get the block grant usually around July each year," he said. "It comes in one big grant that's made up of all 90 airports, the $150,000 entitlements you guys get. All that's in there plus we get about $3 million or $4 million in 'apportioned funding' that we use to fund projects like these that are going to exceed what you guys have in entitlements. So, we use that money at our discretion so we'll have to see where the projects come out this year and we can fund this one. If not all of it, just a portion of it."

Messina said how that would be done would be "in limbo" until that point.

Typically, he said, a portion of that funding would go for what are usually considered high priority projects.

"But there's a safety factor in here, too, that we're trying to accomplish in funding the whole thing," Messina said.

"The state's five percent, you mean?" airport commission chairman Ginger Schwanebeck asked.

"No, the FAA's 90 percent," Messina said.

"I was under the impression we had been assured that this would be funded," Schwanebeck said.

"Eventually," Messina told her. "We might have to do it in ... portions. It's not 100 percent, um, sure. It's gonna be in limbo."

He said what could be done is when bids are advertised, alternates could be specified "so when we get the bid prices in, we can award what we get money for at the time."

"We can make the contractor hold the price for a certain amount of time," Messina said. "As more money becomes available, the more we can finish, the more we can change order more pieces of the fence and see how it goes. When we get closer to that time, we'll figure out how we'll break that up."

"We don't want to do any part of the fence if we can't do the whole fence, right?" commission member Brandon Baker asked.

"What's that?" Messina asked.

Baker clarified.

"We wouldn't want to do just a portion of the fence," he said.

"Wouldn't want to but if you can't fund it all then ... you just see what you can do," Messina said.

He reiterated July is usually when most of the grant money is received and August is when bids are let for bigger projects.

"Those usually get special grants from the FAA," Messina said. "Those are for runway reconstructions and things like that. As soon as the FAA gives us the full amount for those, then we're usually OK to use our apportionment for a lot of other things. But last year, they didn't give us enough money for those runway and taxiway rehabs that we normally get so we had to use our apportionment money on those types of projects."

He said runway and taxiway improvement projects rate higher than something like the perimeter fence at Lakeland Airport.

"Unfortunately, the apportionment money got cut down a lot," Messina said. "So we weren't able to do as much. With the August bid letting, we'll know a lot more."

"We have to remind President Trump he's in favor of infrastructure," Schwanebeck said, half-jokingly.

"He is," commission member Jeff Hunter said. "He likes airports."

"The one thing you have going for you, too," Messina said, " is the project would be let (in August) and you're in 30 percent design now. Environmental (assessment) and all that stuff should be done so if we have a project that's let ... typically, we try and spend that money instead of reserving that money for a project that might not be ready."

Baker asked if there were other airports the size of Lakeland looking to do a perimeter fence project similar to the one being planned.

"Not fence projects," Messina said. "Everybody wants to do something a little different."

Monday, he provided more clarification when asked if the fence would be built all at once or in sections.

"It could be either at this point," Messina told The Lakeland Times. "We don't know if we can get everything Lakeland needs for the fence in one shot."

If the fence were to be built in sections, Messina said he doesn't know how much time there would be between construction.

"Obviously, it's not ideal to do it that way," he said. "We'd like to start it and keep it as fluid as we can. 

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.lakelandtimes.com

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