Myrtle Beach Terminal Design Work to Continue; Contractor Dispute Settled

The recent delays have sapped time and added to the cost of the project. The most recent estimate puts the 14-gate terminal at $228.8 million.

Design work on a planned terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport will resume after a contractor dispute was settled this week, but the recent delays have sapped time and added to the cost of the project.

The most recent estimate puts the 14-gate terminal at $228.8 million - up from $200 million budgeted in July - but a guaranteed price cannot be locked in until design work is 65 percent complete.

The designs were stalled at just over 50 percent for months while Horry County negotiated a final $1.5 million payment, made this week to its ousted architectural firm HNTB Architecture Inc.

Now, a new firm must be hired by the county's general contractor before design work can resume. Meanwhile, the funds set aside to get the terminal project off the ground are shrinking.

County Council authorized $12 million for designs and planning that could be used to get a fixed terminal cost from lead contractor Skanska USA. Up to this week, $9.12 million of that has been spent, according to Airport Director Bob Kemp, and a guaranteed cost is still at least months away.

"It is unlikely that the county can reach that guaranteed maximum price for the $12 million," County Attorney John Weaver said Tuesday.

The money paid so far has come completely from funds generated by the airport, not Horry County taxpayers, according to Kemp.

Weaver said the project is picking up pace since the county finalized its split with HNTB.

"I know that we have gotten from them all the work they did for Horry County," he said. "We have all the products that we needed."

The final $1.5 million payment was negotiated over the past two months, Weaver said. HNTB originally sent a bill for $1.65 million to the county Jan. 24, just weeks after it was fired by Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland due to a dispute over architectural costs.

A new architectural firm must pick up where HNTB left off and bridge the gap in designs from 50 percent to 65 percent.

Each month that passes without a guaranteed price adds $1.6 million to $1.8 million to the final cost of building a new terminal, according to estimates by Kemp. Contractors cannot guarantee a price tag until they have the majority of design plans and can accurately estimate labor and materials costs, which generally increase in cost over time.

The guaranteed maximum price was expected to be complete last summer.

Also this week, there was some good news for terminal funding. A $43 million grant considered to be a crucial piece of terminal funding was finalized by the federal government.

"That [FAA] letter of intent is a sure thing now. It had to go through a waiting period in Congress," Gilland said.

The money will be paid out to the county over eight years and must be used for the airport apron boarding area and design work, Kemp said. The county already has received the first annual check.

In the history of the agency, the FAA never has failed to make annual payments of what's called a letter of intent grant, Kemp said.

Myrtle Beach Sun News

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