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September 7, 2017

Brisk market drives up airport terminal cost

The proposed, two-story terminal estimated cost represents about 10 percent of planned improvements totaling more than $29 million.
The two-story lounge of the planned Warrenton-Fauquier Airport terminal.
They asked me to do some things to bring the cost down. They asked me to not value-engineer out the quality of the building.
— Airport Director Dave Darrah
Warrenton-Fauquier Airport
• Owner: Fauquier County.

• Where: 5075 Airport Road, Midland.

• Director: David Darrah.

• Employees: 3 full-time, 1 part-time.

• Size: About 406 acres.

• Fiscal 2018 budget: $715,851.

• Phone: 540-422-8285.

• Website: Click here.

• Facebook: Click here.
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Staff Journalist
Because of sky-high construction costs, Fauquier could pay a lot more than expected for a new terminal at Warrenton-Fauquier Airport near Midland.

Richmond-based Delta Airport Consultants Inc. last fall priced the two-story, 10,000-square-foot structure at an estimated $2.8 million, said David Darrah, director of the county-owned airport.

But, the two construction bids Fauquier received this spring exceeded that estimate by hundreds of thousands of dollars, Mr. Darrah said.

“When we did the engineering estimates, the building industry was depressed,” Mr. Darrah said.

After President Donald Trump took office Jan. 20, “he did some things, and business is cooking,” the airport director said. Partly as a result, construction costs “are 30 percent higher than they were at the start of the year.”

Disappointed with the two construction proposals they received in the spring, Fauquier officials “cancelled” the bid request.

Because of that, the two submissions have been “sealed,” according to county Procurement Manager Sue Monaco.

Thus, details about the bids — their amounts and the contractors’ names — remain unavailable, Mrs. Monaco explained.

“Once it’s cancelled, it’s over,” she said. “It just makes it so we can go out again with a clean solicitation and a new solicitation. That, hopefully, will result in bids that will come within budget.”

With that in mind, Fauquier officials on Tuesday again began soliciting bids for the terminal. Contractors have until 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, to submit proposals.

Mr. Darrah has discussed the matter with Fauquier’s board of supervisors.

“They asked me to do some things to bring the cost down,” he said. “They asked me to not value-engineer out the quality of the building” to reduce expenses.

Pre-purchasing and storing of materials might be one way to control costs until a construction contract gets awarded, he said.

“There’s no risk for (the county) to wait and wait and wait to see what the cost on steel is going to be and things like that,” Mr. Darrah said. “And so we’re trying to see if that makes a difference.”

Under a cost share program, the Virginia Department of Aviation pays 58 percent of the construction cost of new terminals' public-use areas and the local governments cover the balance.

Based on the Fauquier terminal construction estimate, the state agency’s share totals $1.6 million; the county’s 42-percent obligation amounts to $1.2 million.

The state aviation department appears ready to meet the project’s potential construction cost increases.

“The state share will be 58 percent, based on a low bid as long as both the county and the state agreed the low bid is appropriate for the current construction environment,” aviation department Executive Director Randall Burdette wrote in an email.

While county Supervisor Chris Granger (Center District) “overall” backs the airport project, he wants to know specifically how much more the terminal building will cost, because that could affect a range of county construction projects involving Warrenton’s two aging middle schools, a new Warrenton library branch and central sewer for the Catlett and Calverton service districts.

“I think they all work together,” Mr. Granger said of those projects. “I’m supportive of the airport, long term. It’s going to be a benefit. I want to make sure it’s not going to be at the expense of another project.”

If county and state officials agree on a contractor to build the terminal, the building’s site work could begin in late October, Mr. Darrah said.

That means terminal construction could begin next June and be complete a year later, he said.

“That’s the plan,” Mr. Darrah said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? I’m being very conservative on the time, because you don’t what weather will get in the way, or whatever.”

Though the airport’s one-mile runway can accommodate corporate jets, Fauquier needs a modern terminal to help attract the kind of development that might bypass the county for communities with more sophisticated operations, he said.

“The airport is the front door to the county,” Mr. Darrah said. “This is where the money is going to come in.”

Fauquier Economic Development Department Director Miles Friedman considers the airport critical to the county’s business growth.

“The airport gives us a great economic development strength, both as a way of accommodating the aviation needs of our companies and prospects, as well as serving as a potential hub for future corporate development in and around the region,” Mr. Friedman wrote in an email.

Designed by Richmond-based Price Simpson Harvey, the planned terminal will include a conference room, kitchen and office space — all of which would be available to businesses and the community, he said.

Potential uses could include a sheriff’s satellite office, Mr. Darrah suggested.

The county’s economic development office also may open a business incubator — an inexpensive office space with equipment to help startups and small companies grow and move to their own offices, Mr. Darrah said.

Fauquier operates three incubators — one in Marshall and another at Vint Hill — along with Mason Enterprise Center, in partnership with George Mason University, on Warrenton’s Main Street.

“The building’s going to be used for everything, not just the airport people,” Mr. Darrah said of the planned terminal.

Mr. Darrah estimated planned airport improvements at $29.2 million over the next five years.

He put Fauquier’s share at about $2.8 million.

“That’s a good deal for the county,” Mr. Darrah added.

Besides the terminal, planning improvements include new roads, parking lots, drainage, lighting and hangars.

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Jim Griffin · September 13, 2017 at 12:38 pm
I am fine with airport improvement, especially if it draws business location to our prosperous county, still more if it helps educate those with an interest in an aviation career.

I write this despite living along the flight path, the occasional jet takeoff resonating through our otherwise rural area.

Ad hominem attack adds nothing to the discussion. Indeed, it likely lowers the level of discourse and serves as a "tantrum" all its own. Besides, with what are we arguing -- a decision not to proceed without a better grip on finances? Sounds like prudence to me.
nonewtaxes · September 10, 2017 at 8:20 pm
Maybe because the Manassas airport is such a success the Warrenton airport has become obsolete. Do we need an airport every 20 miles?
RGLJA · September 10, 2017 at 6:25 pm
I remember when Manassas airport was not very different than Warrenton airport. Neither had a tower, neither had much activity except for small private aircraft. Both had old asphalt runways with rundown hangars. Now decades later, Manassas airport has grown into the busiest airport in Virginia, with massive dual concrete runways supporting jet traffic daily with modern navigation systems and new facilities, terminal buildings, dozens of business tenants, multiple flight schools, and the busiest FAA tower in Virginia (other than Dulles). Warrenton airport remains a sleepy county airport, with one less runway than it used to have. The economic return on investment for Manassas airport is probably 100 times greater than Warrenton airport. Sure location is an advantage for Manassas, but not the THAT much an advantage. Manassas is enormously successful with their airport as compared to Fauquier airport, which is struggling to survive, not to mention the half dozen other airports in the region that have already closed in the past three decades.

So what made the difference? One huge difference is a man named Colgan, who had the foresight to start a small commuter airline in Manassas, and who vigorously promoted the airport and supported it for decades, through a lot of hard times. We don't have anybody with that aviation vision and courage in Fauquier County; quite the contrary, we have too few who even care if there is an airport here. It will be a shame if we lose the airport, but that is probably the most likely outcome now.
nonewtaxes · September 9, 2017 at 5:01 pm
If the county has to budget money for the airport it aint making enough to be self-sustaining.

60 residents out of 60,000 own an airplane.

You cant show that its an hard dollar economic benefit to the county. T You only hope is to say that it provides some type of economic good that is difficult to account for.

There are far more pressing needs in the county that are far more easily accounted for. The essence of capital budgeting is to allocate capital tot he best use. Surely there are more important items on the list that should go above the airport.
Jim Griffin · September 9, 2017 at 2:34 pm
"Mr. Darrah estimated planned airport improvements at $29.2 million over the next five years. He put Fauquier’s share at about $2.8 million."

OK, let's do the math: At 145 planes, more than $200,000 per plane will be expended in planned airport improvements over the next five years. Obviously, if the number of planes doubles, that will fall to $100,000 per plane over five years. If half the planes leave for another airport, the costs per plane will double to $400,000 per plane.

Our county's direct share of those planned expenditures is one-tenth this amount, or between $40,000, $20,000 and $10,000 per plane over five years. Will the plane owners' see value in these improvements that will generate this amount in plane parking or take-off/landing fees? Aviation gas sale profits? Does the airport charge such take-off/landing fees already? How much is current airplane parking and storage?

I do not oppose these expenditures, believing in our collective ability to attract business to the community and better serve our citizens. Nonetheless, the cost-to-value ratio for this and other projects is important. How much do we pay per swimmer at the aquatic center? How much will we pay per plane or per flight for our airport?

Why isn't a business taking this risk? Is there some compelling attribute -- such as access to public rights-of-way for broadband, or broadband's highly-regulated nature as a utility -- that compels public involvement in the project? Many airports are private, as are many aquatic centers.
Jim Griffin · September 9, 2017 at 12:39 am
Airnav says:

Aircraft based on the field: 145
Single engine airplanes: 123
Multi engine airplanes: 17
Helicopters: 2
Ultralights: 3

Aircraft operations: avg 130/day *
63% local general aviation
35% transient general aviation
1% air taxi
<1% military
* for 12-month period ending 31 December 2015
BJ · September 8, 2017 at 9:56 am
Those who use it or will use it need to pay for it. Most of us don't have anything to do with the airport. I'd rather my tax dollars go to updated infrastructure, road repair, fire/rescue, etc.

Blaine Johnson
nonewtaxes · September 8, 2017 at 12:15 am
If you're fortunate enough to own an airplane, you're fortunate enough to pay rent on the garage in which you keep it. That leaves 99+% of us out of the airport business.

The project should be treated as a capital investment and if it doesn't bring in more than it takes it should be scrapped.

We all know the doorway to the county is broadband.

Cayenne · September 7, 2017 at 10:43 pm
This article is full of "opinions" by the stake holders involved and are upsetting to this taxpayer. Any thoughts of attracting enough new business to the County to generate a ROI is a little farfetched in an area that has not been business friendly previously. The Board of Supervisors should be a little more mindful in approving additional funds for airport construction.

Wellitsthetruth · September 7, 2017 at 5:19 pm
>He put Fauquier’s share at about $2.8 million.

>“That’s a good deal for the county,” Mr. Darrah added.

HOW? We are in the process of trying to either remodel or replace multiple aging middle schools, which no agreement can be made on. But sure this $2.8 Million is absolutely a good damn deal for the "county". Barely anyone of the county uses the airport and from what I can understand it really doesn't pay that much back into the county as some people would argue.

The Children in this county's future is far more important than this unneeded project.

>“The airport is the front door to the county,” Mr. Darrah said. “This is where the money is going to come in.”

Sure. We've heard this before about a lot of things. Why would anyone come into here when Manassas is a much bigger and better airport centered around more things to do? This makes no sense.

>The county’s economic development office also may establish there a business incubator — an inexpensive office space with equipment to help startups and small companies grow and move to their own offices, Mr. Darrah said.

A lot of MAY in this, I'd like some atleast semi guarantees for that $2.8 million.

With so many bigger and better airports around us already, this just seems like an unneeded waste and huge risk of TAXPAYER FUNDS
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