Aviation Authority looking to recoup costs of asbestos removal

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published May 15, 2014

The Charleston County Aviation Authority’s board is looking to recover losses from nearly $670,000 in asbestos remediation at the Charleston International Airport.

Construction crews discovered the asbestos earlier this year during a renovation project. The waterproofing substance that contained the cancer-causing materials was sandwiched between several brick walls at the front of the airport, said Matt McCoy of Michael Baker Inc. during the authority’s board meeting Thursday.

Construction and asbestos abatement continue as part of the Charleston International Airport’s renovation project. (Photo/Liz Segrist)Construction and asbestos abatement continue as part of Charleston International Airport’s renovation project. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

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Contractors were unaware of it until the walls were demolished as part of the Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Program. The aviation authority voted Thursday to approve the $670,000 needed to remove the asbestos from the airport.

The board plans to investigate what company or contractor was responsible for using the asbestos-containing material when the terminal was built in 1982, as well as whether the material that was used was legal at the time.

“The asbestos problem bothers me a lot because it was not expected on our construction project, and it should not have been used in 1982,” Airports Director Paul Campbell said.

Arnold Goodstein, the authority’s legal counsel, said there’s a good chance the authority could get some financial reimbursement if board members discover who is responsible for using the materials during construction more than three decades ago.

“Once we dig into it and figure out who provided it and who purchased it, we will go from there,” Goodstein said.

Asbestos abatement will delay the project’s completion by one month, to September 2015.

The board has allocated roughly $1.85 million of its $11.5 million contingency fund thus far for change orders needed for unexpected changes during the construction process.

2015 fiscal year budget

The authority’s total revenue for fiscal year 2015 is projected to be roughly $38.5 million, up 8% from fiscal year 2014. The authority approved its budget for fiscal year 2015, beginning July 1, during the meeting.

The operating revenue for fiscal year 2015 is projected to increase to roughly $33 million, up 8.1% from the year prior. Revenue from parking fees and rental cars continue to be the largest revenue producers for the authority, Finance Director Judi Olmstead said.

Projected revenue for parking for next year is $10.5 million, up 13.9%. Fuel sales are expected to increase by 23% to roughly $1.3 million in projected revenue.

The authority expects its operating expenses to increase by 5.4% from personnel costs, benefits, administrative services, utilities, contractual services and insurance, professional and legal fees.

The budget includes plans for three staff additions, including a staff attorney that would report to the airports director, a legal assistant and a maintenance planner. There will be five title changes in the engineering department, but they will not impact the budget.

The aviation authority’s budget projections are based, in part, on the $200 million renovation project underway at the airport and an increase in both passengers and flights at the airport.

About 622,000 passengers have arrived or departed from the airport during the first quarter of 2014, up 14.5% from the same time in 2013. For fiscal year 2015, the authority forecasts 2.9 million passengers will pass through the airport.

The airport currently has 18 daily non-stop destinations. The American Airlines and U.S. Airways merger is creating some opportunity at the local airport as the airline shifts around flights.

JetBlue Airways will add two nonstop flights from the Charleston airport to the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport outside Washington, D.C., starting June 19. Southwest is considering the addition of nonstop service to the Charleston airport as well if it acquires two additional gates at Dallas Love Field.

Renovations update

The authority expects that the renovations will have passengers spending more money at the new concessions and shops, as well as renting more cars through the new rental car pavilion.

“About a year from now, you will see a significant change at the airport. … We will be about 80% complete with the project by June,” Campbell said.

The renovation project will upgrade the airport’s baggage claim areas, security checkpoints and terminals, as well as a new rental car center.

The second floor of the Central Energy Plant is now finished. Construction continues at Concourse B for the new B4 gate.

The third new baggage carousel recently opened. The next phase for the baggage claim area will be to raise the ceiling.

Construction has caused some issues for airlines’ baggage operations and the airport looks to finish construction as quickly as possible, said Michael Pena, chairman of the Terminal Redevelopment Improvement Program committee.

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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