DOBSON — A runway expansion at the local airport will continue, but not without an extra $1 million.
Last Wednesday, the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport Authority met with county commissioners seated as airport authority members for the first time. The board learned the final phase of a runway expansion project at the airport will likely cost more than anticipated.
The project to widen, lengthen and harden the runway at the airport lacks only two final steps, said Jeff Kirby, an engineer contracted to manage the $9 million project. The runway must be repaved, and new lighting must be placed on it.
Kirby told the board only one company submitted a bid for the project. Even after he re-advertised for bids, he was left with only one. That bid, submitted by Carl Rose & Sons Construction offers to complete the work for $4,905,000, $975,000 above what was budgeted for the final phase of the project.
There are three options, said Kirby. The scope of the project could be changed. However, different plans for the project came in more expensive, and there would be little left to change. The board could also reject the bid, but if authority members opted for that course of action, a new set of bids could be even more expensive than the offer on the table from Carl & Sons.
Kirby noted a third option does exist. He can go back to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation in an effort to garner more funds from the state agency.
Kirby added the state is usually receptive to such requests, and bidder must honor the prices in the bid for 120 days following submission of the bid.
“Is the county willing to give another $97,500?” asked Greg Perkins, one of two authority members appointed by the city of Mount Airy.
The grants funding the runway expansion project require a 10-percent local match, meaning the Surry County taxpayer is required to fund 10 percent of the project’s costs. Increasing the cost of the project would also increase the county’s share.
Though commissioners stopped short of stating they would be willing to shell out the extra money in their capacities on the Surry County Board of Commissioners, they did instruct Kirby to see what he could accomplish in talks with the Division of Aviation.
The other city appointee to the airport board, Dr. Tom Jackson, said he was concerned the county might take its eyes off the prize and fail to see the runway project to completion.
However, County Manager Chris Knopf put Jackson at ease when he told him county officials absolutely plan to finish the job which is underway at the airport. If the project went unfinished, the state and federal governments would likely “claw back” the $8 million to $9 million in grant dollars associated with the project
County officials also seemed to have a plan to fund the airport.
The airport board took steps to set up a new order of operations for managing airport finances. Surry County Finance Officer Sarah Bowen will serve as finance officer for the authority, and the airport will become a new enterprise account for the county.
An enterprise fund is used to fund self-sustaining entities within government. The county’s public works department is an example. All money collected through fees is placed in the department’s fund and used to provide those services. Theoretically, if managed appropriately, improvements and services are funded solely by way of the fees garnered in exchange for the services.
Knopf told the airport authority that the county will be providing about $1 million as start-up funds for its new enterprise. Those monies will be used to pay off any outstanding balances owed to professionals and contractors doing business with the airport.
After the meeting, Bowen noted many of those dollars will be returned to the county after receipt of federal and state grant dollars.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.