By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
An engineering firm has recommended that the Havre City-County Airport Board wait until next year to upgrade the airport's terminal, and has not determined whether the building should be renovated or replaced entirely.
In a one-page fax addressed to airport board members, Stelling Engineering of Great Falls recommended that the board plan all of the proposed upgrades this winter and begin construction next summer. The company has been hired by the airport board to perform the engineering and architectural work for the updated terminal building.
The board will decide whether to rebuild or renovate the terminal based on cost assessments performed by Stelling, board chair Bob Breum said during a meeting Thursday. Although figures for each project vary, one estimate put the cost of rebuilding the terminal at $600,000.
Board members have said that figure may be prohibitive if a proposed congressional appropriation is not awarded.
"I think essentially it has become more of a remodel," board member Lowell Swenson said this morning.
Remodeling would allow the airport to address the most pressing needs first, airport manager Bill Arvin said.
"The internal remodeling can be done after the windows and roof," he said.
The terminal building houses the Havre office of Big Sky Airlines, the area's only passenger carrier. Among other shortcomings, the building, constructed in 1960, has a leaky roof and windows that are not energy efficient. Community leaders have said the condition of the building reflects poorly on Havre.
Solutions were elusive until a federal law passed last year made the terminal eligible for Federal Aviation Administration grant funding, and a philanthropist offered to cover the required local cash match.
To date, the airport has accumulated about $161,000 in FAA nonprimary entitlement funds. It is expected to receive $150,000 next year, meaning the airport will have accrued more than $300,000 in grant money. The money requires a 5 percent cash match, which Texas oilman John Klabzuba has committed to paying.
Previously, nonprimary entitlement funds could only be used for runway-related projects, but a new law passed in December allows airports of Havre's size to use the money for terminal-related projects.
The airport could complete some upgrades this year, but that would entail borrowing nonprimary entitlement funds from other airports, and it is unlikely that a contractor could be found this late in the construction season, board members said Thursday.
"We can't rush in and put a new roof on it this year," Swenson said.
Breum asked Arvin if he could continue to patch the roof throughout the winter.
"It can be Band-Aided until spring," Arvin replied.
The rebuilt or renovated terminal may include space for the U.S. Customs Service. One proposed floor plan would provide the agency with office space and a detention and inspection cell.
"If you build it, they (the Customs Service) will come," said board member Dave Peterson.
Board members also discussed the airport's progress in complying with new FAA regulations.
"Physically we're well into it," Arvin said. "What we got to do left is the paperwork."
Arvin asked board members to consider investing in a radio that he could use to talk with planes and also to contact Hill County dispatch in the event of an emergency.
Board members took no action during Thursday's meeting as not enough members were present to constitute a quorum.