Airport Basin: Project jets along with council approval

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By Carol A. Clark

Council's 60-percent design phase approval for the Airport Basin project at its meeting May 15 allows the county to take advantage of the current building season to accomplish critical infrastructure work.


Trenching for utilities, earthwork tasks, drainage, and general site preparation can now be accomplished. The remaining portion or portions of the contract including building the facilities and related infrastructure needs such as parking have been awarded to in one or more packages, starting in September, which could allow for project construction to begin in October.

Hensel Phelps is the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) on the project. Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman explained one advantage of the CMAR project delivery method is the ability for the construction contractor to guide the team toward the best means to attain early or on-time project completion milestones.

"The goal is to complete construction by the end of 2009 and move the county and school facilities to their new location at the Airport Basin site in early 2010," he said.

Some 280 people related to the county, schools and utilities department will work amongst 60 offices at the site.

Both councilors Mike Wheeler and Nona Bowman expressed a desire to ensure the Airport Basin facilities look attractive. Wheeler advised against an institutional appearance and Bowman suggested adding a touch of adobe color to areas slated to be painted plain white.

A number of project representatives and members of the public addressed council at the May 15 meeting held in Council Chambers at the Community Building.

Hensel Phelps District Manager Stephen Brauer addressed concerns raised by Councilor Ken Milder. Milder explained that Hensel Phelps was hired by Los Alamos National Laboratory to work on the Metropolis and NISC buildings (Nonproliferation and International Security Center,) where their work was okay but he said that they dropped the ball on the National Security and Science Building, which he said is also known as the "Emerald Palace."

"There were quality control problems and it cost us at the lab a lot of money...," Milder said. He mentioned problems with every circuit breaker panel, saying that workers didn't torque down the circuits so circuits were breaking and could have sparked fires.

"We'll have a site specific quality assurance program that we'll submit for approval to the county," Brower said.

Milder told Brower that the root of these types of problems often is keeping on top of subcontractors. "This project is going to have a lot of subcontractors and I wanted to make you aware of these problems," Milder said.

Vice President Eric Stern of WHPacific, the Value Engineering (VE) company on the project, briefed council on the various design changes that have caused project delays but also cost savings such as going from one level to two to shrink the facility's footprint. "The cause of the delays were not unusual and I think will benefit the project in the end," Stern said.

Hall told Stern that any slack that existed in the past in terms of schedule and cost is now gone. "Can we take this as your personal guarantee," Hall asked, to which Stern responded, "You have my assurance we'll meet the schedule."