Myrtle Beach Airport Project Has Planning Problems

The money set aside to prepare the terminal for construction is spent and the county is left with design plans that are far from complete.


Barnard said he worries voting down the extra money could hurt federal funding for various projects, including a plan to build a highway to the South Strand, which Barnard has championed.

If the airport project dies, the county will have to turn down $43 million in funding promised by the Federal Aviation Administration in January.

Sen. Graham played a crucial part in getting that money.

He refused comment on the terminal uncertainty until he visits Myrtle Beach this week and discusses the project's future with the county, his spokesman Kevin Bishop said.

"We don't want to jeopardize that relationship by any means," said County Councilman Mark Lazarus, who also sat on the council ad hoc terminal committee with Gilland and Barnard.

Lazarus said he's not sure how he will vote July 18, and will give staff the next couple weeks to consider options.

Lazarus has said expanding the existing terminal at the airport is one alternative.

"We had a business model that was built and our business model has changed," he said.

Rooting for expansion

As the council mulls its decision, the tourism industry is hoping the outcome will be a new terminal. "The ability to expand is critical to golf tourism and to our tourism industry in general," said Mickey McCamish, president of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday.

Business at the airport dropped this year after Hooters Air shuttered its regular air service and others cut back. That's caused some to question the need for a new terminal.

McCamish and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce have worked to bolster air service at the airport and say the effort is paying off with new Spirit Airlines service to Boston. Efforts are also under way to attract more business from other airlines.

"While it doesn't look very positive right now ... the real key is to increase the number of seats coming in here," McCamish said. "You have to believe that air service will be returning."

Horry County has committed $12.3 million so far to the terminal project.

Where it came from

Airport fees | $2,517,657

FAA grants | $9,782,809

Major expenditures

Clearing land and soil | $2,157,070

Construction manager | $1,590,881

Design team | $6,302,805

Project management task orders | $1,100,000

Grant service fees | $253,000

Public awareness program | $150,000

Travel | $30,000

Other, including equipment, studies and piping | $716,705

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Background

2000 | Horry County and Myrtle Beach councils agree to move the terminal across the runway. Original cost estimate: $185 million

2003 | Airport Director Bob Kemp updates the city and county councils on the 10-year master plan, which calls for a new terminal building with up to 14 gates, to be complete by 2007.

May 2005 | Skanska USA Building Inc., which had been contracted to construct the terminal, said increasing costs for materials had ballooned to $253 million. The county asked its architects to redesign and cut costs.

July 2005 | County approves a scaled-down $200 million version of the project.

January| The county fires HNTB Architecture of Washington, D.C. over an additional $7.85 million to $8.75 million fee the company said it was owed.

May | Kemp says Horry County won't get a guaranteed price tag on its new terminal project until later this year.

Monday | The new design company said work has "just started." To get finished designs, County Council must pay an additional $6.2 million.

July 18 | Horry County Council will meet to decide whether to spend the money and proceed with the project.



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