Tulsa Airport Getting New Bag Carousels

Jan. 13--Responding to frequent breakdowns of the inbound baggage system and the delays they cause at Tulsa International Airport, officials Thursday approved a $101,250 engineering contract to manage the replacement of the six baggage carousels.

The Tulsa firm of Fritz Baily Inc. was awarded the job, which will include electrical, mechanical and structural design to ensure the new carousels are compatible with the existing baggage conveyor system, said Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust officials.

Constructing new baggage carousels to replace the 26-year-old equipment is estimated by airport staff to cost $1.5 million, can be done this year and will be 95 percent reimbursable by Federal Aviation Administration grants, said Airports Director Jeff Mulder.

Fixing another part of the baggage system will have to wait, however.

The inbound conveyor system, which carries baggage from commercial aircraft to the terminal carousels, is faulted equally by airport staff for delays. But Mulder said it won't be replaced this year because of a funding shortage.

Replacement of the conveyor, at an estimated cost of more than $4 million, would be done with mostly local funding consisting of fuel and ticket taxes and fees.

"We're looking at changing the (baggage) delivery a little bit," Mulder said. "We're looking at expanding the pedestrian bridge to make the baggage conveyors bigger. That's projected for 2007."

The board took under advisement the initial draft of Tulsa International's and Jones Riverside Airport's Five-Year Capital Improvement Plans for fiscal years 2007-2011.

The 2007 projects in Tulsa International's five-year $93 million capital plan include a continuation of the $40 million noise mitigation program and additional projects in the $30 million-plus terminal security and expansion project.

The 2007 projects scheduled in Jones Riverside's $15.3 million draft five-year capital plan include completion of the airfield drainage project and the airfield incursion prevention program.

Trustees voted unanimously to reject the proposed $199,900 purchase of 70.8 acres of land on the south side of the intersection of 46th Street North and U.S. 169.

The $2,823-per-acre land, offered by Milton O. Carlin of Tulsa, is the final piece needed by TAIT to construct a 9,000-foot third parallel runway, which was in the planning stages east of Mingo Road 15 years ago. TAIT owns 1,309 acres east of Mingo, south of 51st Street North and north of the Burlington Northern Railroad. The cost of Carlin's 70.8 acres is 95 percent reimbursable with FAA grants, airport staff said.

Airport and FAA officials began planning for a third runway when aircraft operations at Tulsa International topped 192,000 operations annually, or 60 percent of the airport's capacity of 320,000 aircraft operations, in three of the five years before 1992. FAA guidelines require that airports begin planning for additional runways when operations reach 60 percent of capacity.

A recession in the airline industry depressed aircraft operations in the early-1990s, eliminating the need for the third runway. In 2005, aircraft operations totaled 150,915, a 9.4 percent drop from 2004.

"We're running at 40 percent of capacity. I move that we reject it," said Trustee Carl Clay. "We have the right of eminent domain. If we need it, we can get it."

Trustee Charles Sublett, seconding Clay's motion, said a third runway is "way, way in the future, and whether it's $5 million or $5,000, I don't think it should be spent if it's not required."

Chairwoman Meredith Siegfried said she prefers to see plans of an airport master developer, which TAIT expects to hire in the first quarter, before committing to a land purchase.

Clay added that the airport would need a third runway when he sees "the birth announcement of Richard Simmons Jr."

Trustees received, but took no action on, a proposed $3.2 million offer for sale of Airport All Covered Parking, 2215 N. Sheridan Road. The parking operation, which has 531 covered parking spaces about a mile south of the passenger terminal, is being offered by Egan Properties LLC.

Clay said he had received the parking offer in response to publicity about a parking consultant's $13.6 million proposal to expand the terminal's parking garage by 736 spaces.

Covered parking accounts for about 40 percent of the 3,509 public parking spaces at the airport.

In a related matter, trustees approved a $1.28 million 12-month operating budget for the airport parking operations.

In 2005, airport parking revenue totaled $5.47 million, a 13.9 percent increase, while activity -- apparently stalled by recent parking rate increases -- totaled 808,803 vehicles, a 0.8 percent increase.

The board and Cliff Magee, a Tulsa lawyer and lessee of six hangars at Jones Riverside, debated for more than 30 minutes leasing policies and alleged discrimination in leases at Jones.

Magee requested extensions of his leases, but the board agreed to extensions on only two leases on which Magee said he would make capital improvements.

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Bill LaFortune -- mindful of the city's cable TV camera -- made a long statement about allegedly inaccurate statements made by his mayoral opponents.

Contrary to the statements made by mayoral candidates, LaFortune said, he or his proxy, Allen LaCroix, the city's chief operating officer, have been present at all meetings involving city and state economic development officials and executives at American Airlines.

American officials have assured him, the mayor said, that Tulsa is not in danger of losing 3,500 aerospace jobs.

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