A new terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport will cost $228.8 million - nearly $29 million over Horry County's budget, according to new contractor estimates this week.
The estimate is based on the most stripped-down version of a 14-gate terminal available to the county and would not include a second taxiway or screening for foreign passengers.
For the past year, County Council has been battling mounting costs and decided this summer to set a $200 million ceiling for terminal spending, which would cover planning through construction but mean cutting some features.
"We believe [the new estimate] is a number we can have some confidence in," Airport Director Bob Kemp said.
Still, the $228.8 million is not guaranteed because terminal design plans are only 50 percent complete. Contractors cannot set a guaranteed price until 65 percent of the plans are done, and design work will be delayed after Horry County fired its architectural firm last week.
Kemp said he will work with the project's lead contractor, Skanska USA, this month and attempt to whittle down the estimated cost.
"They have given us a list of cost-saving measures, and we want to meet with them and go over that," he said.
Meanwhile, County Council overwhelmingly approved launching a $105,000 study of airport management Tuesday.
The study was a hot-button issue that split the council and was narrowly rejected last month. Opponents said the study should not be conducted while the county was working on the terminal project, and supporters argued that the county must know how efficiently its airport is being run.
There was no discussion during the meeting Tuesday, but Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland said the council had agreed not to fight over the study.
The past week has been rocky for the terminal project. The county fired its terminal architect, HNTB Architecture Inc. of Washington, D.C., on Jan. 5. The two wrangled for months over an additional $7.85 million to $8.75 million the company said it was owed for terminal design and construction oversight.
Those services likely will have to be publicly bid again, and that process could take weeks or months.
Despite the high cost estimate and delays, County Council continued to stand firm on completing the terminal, which supporters say is needed to expand the tourism industry.
"It is my understanding that there could still be some tweaking done and some value engineering done," Gilland said. "It is not unreachable. There are still pots of money out there that we are hoping to dip heavily into."
No federal funding has yet materialized for the project. The county had hoped to get word on help from the Federal Aviation Administration last fall.
Gilland has said the funding could come within the next few weeks or months.
For now, the council will continue to fine-tune its plans.
Councilman Mark Lazarus said the council's Administration Committee, which oversees financial matters, will review the terminal plans and send the issue back to the council Jan. 24.
The new terminal will cost $228.8 million. County Council decided this summer to set a $200 million ceiling for terminal spending.
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