The city of Aberdeen has paid $161,315.59 for an environmental assessment for a project at the Aberdeen Regional Airport.
The good news is the city will be reimbursed 98 percent of that total.
The airport is planning to remove structures that are in the runway protection zones. As part of the job, one runway will be shortened and another extended. Other work will include the construction of additional taxiways and the relocation of the Airport Rescue Fire Fighting road.
Work began on the environmental assessment in 2009. The final draft is now complete.
For its work on the environmental assessment since 2009, Helms and Associates has been paid $160,115.59 from the city. HDR Engineering was paid $1,200.
To pay that total, the airport used $100,000 from its state fuel tax fund, said airport manager Mike Wilson.
Of the other money, 95 percent will be reimbursed by the federal government and 3 percent by the state, Wilson said.
Helms and Associates ranked 34th in the list of vendors receiving money from the city in 2011. City government paid the company $203,229.96 in 2011, said city finance officer Karl Alberts. Some of that money was for work performed on Tax Increment Financing district No. 14.
The company was paid $172,195.56 for non-TIF related work last year. Money that involved the airport totaled $133,481.98.
Helms and Associates, a firm of consulting engineers and land surveyors, does other work for the airport besides the environmental assessment.
Helms is actually the airport's consulting engineer. Every five years, the Federal Aviation Administration has the airport go through a consultant selection process.
Helms was chosen as the consulting engineer for a five-year period that ends in 2014. Last year, the company did apron work for the airport. The company also designed an ag sprayer taxiway. In addition, They go and do the testing and make sure everything is being constructed in accordance to the plans, Wilson said.
Every time Helms and Associates does a project at the airport, the firm will put together what they think their costs are going to be on the project, Wilson said.
The state reviews the costs to make sure that they're not out of line from where they should be, Wilson said. So there's quite a bit of oversight on what we're paying them.
Helms and Associates works with about 26 airports, said Sam Muntean, an engineer with the firm.
Some work remains on the environmental assessment. A public hearing will take place Feb. 16. Comments are being accepted until Feb. 23. The comments and answers will be included in the final version of the environmental assessment.
When the FAA is satisfied, it will sign off on the document and issue a finding of no significant impact to the environment. The city will then move forward with designing the project.
Wilson estimates that the city will pay Helms about $20,000 for the work that remains on the environmental assessment.
Muntean believes that the work on the environmental assessment is near completion, but one never knows, he said.
When an environmental assessment is complete, it becomes the property of the FAA. But before that happens, the authors of the assessment are subject to whims and desires, he said.
We think we know what needs to be done, we know the rules, regs and so forth. But when you send it in to their legal department, the reaction depends on which lawyer reviews it, Muntean said. And that's why we go through so many review processes, because they each want it slightly different and change things on us.
So when engineers think the end is near on an environmental assessment, it's all dependent on as long as the FAA doesn't change something on us.