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Tours give an inside peek at Airport Basin Project

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By Jennifer Garcia

County councilors, members of the media and county officials got an up close and personal view of the Airport Basin project site on Friday afternoon.

Split into two one-hour tours, those who attended were driven around the construction site and given an update on contractor Hensel Phelp’s progress.

Engineering Project Manager Dan Erickson led the tours, while Project Manager David Apple also helped answer questions and gave briefings on various parts of the project.

Councilors Nona Bowman, Robert Gibson and Michael Wheeler attended the first tour, along with Capital Projects Manager and Facilities Director Anne Laurent, County Administrator Max Baker and Public Works Director Kyle Zimmerman.

The tours began at the entrance to the project on Eastgate Drive.

At the beginning of the tour, Erickson pointed out the water and gas tie ins that are being worked on. For now, there is a huge hole in the ground where crews are working on the tie ins, which is cordoned off for safety reasons.

  So far, the retaining wall that was near completion a few weeks ago is now 100 percent complete.

In addition, switches have been added by Hensel Phelps to the overhead power lines that sit in the middle of construction site. Power to the lines has been turned off as a safety measure.

“We didn’t want anyone working underneath those (live) lines,” Laurent said.

She pointed out that if the Public Utilities Department needs to, they can request that the lines be turned on and they can be, thanks to the switches.

Erickson said that they are just about ready to install the bypass towers for the overhead lines, as well.

Safety is a major concern for both the contractor and the county. Those who took the tour were required to wear bright green safety vests with reflectors on them, as well as protective glasses and hard hats.

A safety fence has also been added near the drop-off end of the cliff at the work site to ensure that construction workers or their equipment don’t accidentally go off the edge.

Building foundations are beginning to take shape, as well. The stem walls for Building D, which will be utilized by the Los Alamos Public Schools, have been poured. Crews were able to pour 200 yards of cement on Building C in one day.

“It would take 20 cement trucks to equal 200 yards of cement,” Erickson said. “I’m impressed on how far along it is at this time.”

Construction superintendent Raul Velez said that he and his crews are expecting the steel to be delivered on Dec. 4.

“We should start construction shortly after,” he said.

At the end of the tour, those who wanted to were afforded the opportunity to operate an excavator.

Gibson was the first one to jump in and give it a try. Erickson gave him a crash-course on how to operate the piece of heavy equipment.

After a few minutes of moving dirt, Gibson gave the controls up to Bowman who got off to a jerky start as she tried to operate the excavator. Wheeler also tried his hand at being a heavy equipment operator, much to the delight of the others on the tour.

The contract amendment to Hensel Phelps for the final Guaranteed Maximum Price #3 for construction is scheduled to go before council on Dec. 16.