New Myrtle Beach Terminal Delays Could Run Horry Cost Up Millions

New delays will add at least $8 million to the cost of a new terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport, an airport advisory board warned Wednesday.

The estimated $228.8 million terminal project hit a snag earlier this month when Horry County fired its architecture firm over a money dispute.

Hiring new architects and getting design work back on schedule will take more than five months - at a cost of $1.6 million to $1.8 million per month, said Airport Director Bob Kemp, who sits on the county's Airport Advisory Board.

Supporters say the terminal is needed to grow the Grand Strand tourism industry, but costs have been a top concern since the project's inception. A large chunk of the money - $70 million at this point - will be borrowed and must be paid back by Horry County.

The Airport Advisory Board expected County Council to green-light the hiring of architects Tuesday to save time, but the council sent the issue to a committee for discussion.

"Every month this project is delayed and every month we are not able to proceed forward is costing us money," Kemp said. Skanska USA, the lead contractor on the project, "has cautioned us that escalation [in cost] is a serious issue with this project."

The delay will be finding a new architecture firm, which could take 90 days, and getting design work back on schedule, which could take months.

Councilman Howard Barnard said further discussion on hiring a design team is important to keep the project on the right track and will add only a two-week delay with little financial effect.

"I think when you are going to spend $230 million of the taxpayers' money you need to do it in a deliberate and well thought-out method," Barnard said.

The project hit a sudden bright spot this month when the Federal Aviation Administration agree to put $43 million toward a new terminal.

Barnard said that was an important first step and the county needs to keep up its momentum.

The design work still is critical to finding out how much the county must pay for a terminal. Once 65 percent of the design work is done, contractors will set a total cost in stone.

Work is now stalled at 50 percent completion, and costs will continue to escalate until the 65 percent mark is hit.

The county first predicted a guaranteed maximum price would be established a year ago, but it has been delayed several times.

Kemp said he had anticipated getting a guaranteed price from contractors in June, but that date was scratched after County Council put off a decision this week.

Skanska was "waiting for my call" Tuesday night and expected to be told to hire architects as soon as possible, Kemp said.

The Airport Advisory Board, which has had a rocky relationship with County Council members in the past year, was unanimously resolved to press the council to work quickly.

"This is real important. This time factor is going to kill us," Chairman Bill McKown said.

There was some question whether the county would have to ask companies to bid publicly on the architectural work, but that was cleared up Tuesday.

The Skanska contract is "written in such a way that Skanska is permitted under their contract to hire an architectural firm to work for them," County Attorney John Weaver said.

Skanska could choose a new architecture firm by March, Weaver said.

That three-month delay - just the time needed to pick new architects - could increase costs by $4.8 million to $5.4 million based on Kemp's estimates of construction costs increasing about 1 percent per month.

Once those architects are on board, it will take them at least several months to get design plans 65 percent complete.

Myrtle Beach Sun News

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