The Charleston County Aviation Authority has increased its budget to $158.9 million to pay for construction costs associated with renovating its terminal.
The authority board voted to boost the budget by roughly $5.8 million during its monthly board meeting Thursday.
The authority originally budgeted $153.1 million for the project. However, higher construction cost estimates and the loss of funding for the project from the Transportation Security Administration caused the project’s cost to increase to $172.1 million.
The aviation authority implemented cost-saving measures to close the funding gap, such as switching to corian counters instead of quartz counters in the terminal bathrooms and changing other similar Cadillac-type products that won’t affect passengers’ experience in the airport, said airport Director Sue Stevens.
Board Chairman Andy Savage thanked representatives from Austin-Hitt and Michael Baker Corp. for their work to reduce the project’s cost and for sharing some of those cost reductions.
“You guys have really put pens and pencils to the test in the last week,” Savage said. “I wasn’t too happy last time I spoke publicly, but I’m very happy today.”
In early June, Savage questioned the lack of cost containment in the redevelopment project and criticized Michael Baker Corp. for not getting construction costs in line with the authority’s budget.
“What bargaining did our representative from Baker do to reduce profit?” Savage said during the June 6 meeting, noting the aviation authority is a civic, nonprofit organization. “These people are entitled to a reasonable profit. But what have we done to reduce that margin? I don’t understand the unwillingness to reduce margins of profit and to do what can be done by those we have hired to contain cost.”
During Thursday’s meeting, Savage said he had his doubts, but Michael Baker and Austin Hitt both came through.
The aviation authority board also heard a presentation from Michael White, senior vice president of CBRE-Carmodyon an economic development project adjacent to Mount Pleasant Regional Airport.
“We feel it’s very important for this board to consider what a strategic asset the community has in Mount Pleasant Regional,” White said.
The project is called the Mount Pleasant Aerospace & Technology Center, and it would occupy roughly 200 acres adjacent to the regional airport. White said land around Charleston International Airport has been dedicated to final assembly by the Boeing Co., and the airport in Mount Pleasant could be an ideal location for companies that still need access to runways and taxiways but may not fit near Charleston International Airport.
At this time, White said, his company would like to collaborate with the aviation authority’s staff to determine the future needs and use of Mount Pleasant Regional Airport and how the aerospace and technology center could fit into those plans.