Airport terminal remodeling project nears 50 percent completion

Construction is nearing 50 percent completion on the second and final phase of the terminal remodeling project at the Grider Field Pine Bluff Municipal Airport, aviation officials heard Thursday.

The project is progressing well, Airport Manager Doug Hale told the Aviation Commission during its monthly meeting, and is far enough along that visitors can now get a feel for what what the finished project will look like. Specifically, Hale mentioned the spacious public lobby area.

“Pine Bluff will have a very nice terminal building when this is finished,” Hale said. “It’s really taking shape.”

Construction began Jan. 16 and is estimated to take six months at a cost of $439,000. The contractor is Bell Construction, which also completed the $500,000 Phase I of the project.

Phase II of the project will replace the building’s broken air-conditioning system, replace the roof and remodel several offices in the terminal, among other items. During Phase I in 2010, the outside of the building and many of the public spaces inside were remodeled.

Eighty percent of the funding comes from the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics and 20 percent of the funding comes from the city of Pine Bluff.

In other business, the commission:

• Discussed a draft lease for the former National Guard Armory building at the airport. The Guard has moved to a shared facility at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, and the commission is preparing to rent the facility at the airport to a tenant. The commission voted to approve the lease document and to offer the building to the interested tenant for a rent of $2,500 a month. The building will be offered as-is, with the tenant being responsible for correcting some of the problems with the structure, such as the roof, plumbing and wiring for telephones and Internet.

• Voted to give the Black Pilots of America the same allowance package the commission has given them for several years for the BPA Memorial Day weekend fly-in, which is the biggest annual event at the airport. The package includes: a $250 food allowance for the safety meeting and Friday brunch; $200 in advertising support; reduced fuel prices; use of the pilot’s lounge and other facilities; a PA system from the Convention Center; Fire Department coverage; Police Department security assistance; Parks and Recreation Department bleachers; insurance; and transportation from the airport to hotel by the Transit Department. Commissioner Ken Johnson, who is a member of the BPA, recused himself from the vote. Johnson said the BPA will post the full schedule and list of speakers and special guests for this year’s event soon on its website. The main speaker will be Major General John Bailey of Houston, Texas. The event includes aviation skill games, free airplane rides for young people, a banquet, awards ceremony and more.

• And discussed plans to resurface the taxiway portion of the airport runway. Mitch Rose with McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. of Little Rock said that the plans are almost complete and ready to submit to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval. May 1 is the deadline, so the FAA may give them approval to proceed some time after that. It is unclear currently if the FAA grant for the project will be 95 percent or 90 percent, because of some decisions that are still being made at the federal level, and it is also unclear if the state will provide 5 percent or 10 percent, because of some decisions that they are not expected to make until after July 1. The project has not yet gone out to bid, so a cost has not been determined, but Hale said the estimated cost is $300,000. The main part of the runway was resurfaced in 2011.