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Bids for Meriden airport hangar project over budget

Bids for Meriden airport hangar project over budget

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MERIDEN — The city is considering reducing the number of new airplane hangars it planned on building at Meriden Markham Airport after bids for the project came in over budget. 

The city bonded a total of about $3 million for the project, which would build three new hangars at the airport and demolish and reconstruct two other decrepit hangars. Each of the hangars are expected to store around 16 aircraft. 

After the city put the project out to bid this year, the lowest bidders came in about $400,000 over budget, leaving the city to decide whether to increase the project’s budget or reduce the work to meet the budget. 

“It's not unusual for a project,” City Manager Tim Coon said. “Sometimes it comes back that you can't get everything you expected, and you have two choices — meet the budget or add to the budget.”

City staff will give a presentation to the City Council’s Finance Committee on where the project stands and what the council’s options are, at the committee’s next meeting on Aug. 27, said Democratic Councilor Brian Daniels, chairman of the Finance Committee. 

Coon said he will recommend that the city eliminate one of the three new hangars proposed, rather than spending more. Two of the proposed new hangars are on the Wallingford side of the airport property on Evansville Avenue, while the third is on the Meriden side. The City Council wouldn’t need to take any new votes under that option, Coon said, because when the council previously approved money for the project, there was nothing set-in-stone about how many hangars had to be built. 

Meriden has a building permit from Wallingford to construct new hangars on the Wallingford side. That permit is set to expire in the spring, Coon said, so he recommends moving forward with the Wallingford hangars and putting the Meriden hangars off for now.  

The City Council voted in May to bond $600,000 for construction of the new hangar on the Meriden side. That bonding was in addition to $2.4 million the council had previously bonded for construction of two new hangars and reconstruction of two old hangars. 

The councilors supported the project in large part because the new hangars are projected to “pay for themselves” in the long run because the city will receive rent payments from pilots looking to store their aircraft. There is currently a dearth of hangar space in the region, officials have said, and there is a waiting list of about 60 pilots for hangar space at Meriden Markham. 

At the time the council approved bonding $600,000 for the third hangar in May, city staff projected the project would take 17.75 years to fully pay for itself. If the City Council follows Coon’s recommendation -- not increasing the project’s budget and instead dropping the third hangar -- the estimated payback period would be 19.25 years, according to Coon. 

Coon said the city hasn’t yet awarded the project to a bidder and declined to name the companies that submitted bids or the bid prices because the city is in negotiations with the two lowest bidders. 

The project’s cost came in over what the city estimated largely due to a rise in construction costs seen across the state and region, Coon said. For example, Coon said, the city four years ago paid a contractor $200,000 to construct one hangar at the airport. That same contractor submitted a bid almost three times that amount for the exact same thing this time around, Coon said. 

The city also ran up against a rise in construction costs with a proposed new banquet facility at the Hunter Golf Course. The City Council in April authorized bonding $875,000 for the project, however, only one construction company respond to a request-for-proposals put out for the project. The company, LaRosa Building Group, submitted a bid for a $1.7 million facility. After a committee overseeing the project didn’t like the scaled-down facility the company could build under the original budget, the city requested an additional $125,000 for the project, which the City Council denied this week. 

Wilma Petro, the city’s former purchasing officer and airport director who is continuing in oversee the project in a part-time role with the city, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. 

Twitter: @MatthewZabierek

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