In a somewhat boring meeting that was exciting at the same time, the Airport Authority unanimously accepted the lowest bid for the terminal, with the stipulation that they needed to come back $4 to $6 million less than where they were at. If that confuses you, let me clarify, because it was confusing to me at first.
The bid for construction was awarded to Walbridge, who was the low bidder at $68 million. The Airport Authority had determined a budget of $54 million for the terminal based on preliminary studies and had confirmed this as recently as May of this year. Former Panama City Mayor Gerry Clemons pointedly asked what changed between May and now to cause an increase of $14 million and after not being answered once, he asked again. Again David Hanson of Walbridge danced around and avoided the question. The gracious Joe Tannehill eloquently stated “we are where we are”, indicating he was ready to move on from that particular merry-go-round. Mr. Tannehill asked Hanson and a representative from HNTB, the architecture firm, whether they had been in communication and working together to come up with the best solution to cut costs without effecting the overall usability, quality, and public appearance of the new airport terminal. The answer was a quick no, only not said in so few words. Again, Mr. Tannehill so eloquently stated that if they didn’t come together, they would be both looking for work as the airport job wouldn’t be a job their firms would have any longer. The two firms assured the board that they would have a presentation in a week specifying the approach that would lower the costs an additional $4 to $6 million and they would have a suitable, acceptable contract for the bid on or before October 7th. Wow, say that out loud – what a mouthful.
Mr. Jeff Dealy, in his construction update, announced that currently, test strips were being laid down for the runway.
The Board unanimously approved increasing the runway depth to 15 inches with the top layer consisting of concrete. It was discussed lightly the need to go ahead and construct the entire 10,000 feet of the runway, which is an extension of the initial 8,400 feet. This was not voted on as they are still awaiting permitting from the FAA for the extension, and they didn’t want to “get ahead of the FAA”. This will be formally decided upon the meeting after the permitting is approved. Centerline lighting on the runway was also approved.
During the public participation portion of the meeting John Caylor, candidate for County Clerk and zaney “investigative reporter” tried to get in some hoopla about how the public showed they did not want the airport through vote and proceeded to talk about how St. Joe was a bunch of crooks. John, throwing the vote on a Democratic ballot and seeing a 22% voter turnout with 54% of overall turnout voting against the airport is hardly overwhelming. After a quite boistrous performance, he was told to leave by the Airport Cheif of Police.