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March 24, 2013

Airport weighing options on projects

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown airport leaders may have to turn down some state grants because there isn’t enough money to provide the local matching funds.

Members of the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority are weighing options on three projects already approved for state and federal funding: An upgrade of several hangars, aircraft refueling system replacement and a new emergency response truck.

The authority submits grant applications based on its long-term plan, board Chairman James Loncella explained at last week’s meeting. Often, the grants are turned down, so plans get set back.

“We got three all at once and they are big,” Loncella said. “And the matches are big.”

The long-awaited “fuel farm” project is the most pressing, authority members agreed, but it is also the most expensive.

Bids were tabulated for last week’s meeting. Low bids approved by the airport’s engineers at L. Robert Kimball totaled $1,065,174 for the minimum project, and $1,196,174 with some requested options.

Straw Construction of Boswell submitted the lowest base bid of $526,286.40 for site work and removal of existing underground tanks. Seneca Cos. of Des Moines, Iowa, had the lowest base bid of $538,887.36 for new tanks and installation. The project replaces aging underground tanks with a new above-ground system.

The bids came in under the engineers’ estimate base cost of $1,161,000 and saved about $200,000 from previous bids received in 2011.

But there is only $575,000 in state grant money approved for the fuel farm project, requiring a minimum match of $425,000 in local funds.

“We have to do something there, or it’s going to leak,” Loncella said. “Then we are going to have problems there.”

The authority instituted a fee on aircraft fuel of 10 cents a gallon to help cover the cost. After two years, there is $49,000 in the account.

Future proceeds from the fee would help cover a loan payment for the rest of the local cost, authority member Richard Weaver pointed out.

“Best case is $300,000 more in local match that we have to come up with,” Loncella said.

“To lower the cost without rebidding, you can award the contract, but reserve the right to negotiate down,” Solicitor Timothy Leventry told the board.

The cost can be reduced by up to 25 percent without another round of bidding, Leventry said.

“If you are unsuccessful, then you can terminate the contract,” he said.

Meanwhile, the authority has to decide if it can move forward with hangar repairs using a $250,000 state grant announced last month. That grant requires an equal match of $250,000.

Either project will require a loan, but Leventry recommended against taking a piecemeal approach.

“The airport (authority) needs to decide what it wants to do,” Leventry said.

“The last thing the airport wants to do is borrow multiple times.”

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