Metro-East News

Commission approves $4.28 million for MidAmerica budget

The St. Clair County Public Building Commission on Thursday approved the budgets for the Public Building Commission and MidAmerica Airport for 2017.

According to documents, the airport is planning $4.28 million in operating expenses in 2017, an increase of nearly $598,000 from the 2016 budget.

The Public Building Commission budget is $11.2 million, which is lower than the 2016 budget. Special projects by the commission are set to decrease by 17.9 percent from this year as the PBC plans to have more design work in 2017 for future projects, said Director of Buildings James Brede.

Both budgets include 1.5 percent wage increases for employees.

In the last year, the airport has worked to increase charter cargo flights. However, flights only occurred on a quarterly basis, airport documents say. MidAmerica did assist the Ningbo Lishe International Airport, in China, with two air cargo carrier negotiations, which are ongoing. Ningbo has completed a perishable center and certification process for food and pharmaceutical imports.

According to airport documents, next year, MidAmerica officials hope to work toward attracting another airline to operate out of the airport, serve as host for a scheduled cargo service provider for the Ningbo-to-MidAmerica route and to market to new aeronautical services such as business jets and aircraft maintenance companies, among other goals.

Among the purchases planned by the airport in 2017 is a portable boarding bridge for the instances there are three planes on the ground, said Airport Director Tim Cantwell. It will also be helpful when upgrades are made to current jet-ways for planned upgrades.

Another parking lot expansion

Commissioners approved an agreement with the engineering firm Crawford, Murphy and Tilly to provide professional services for a proposed parking lot expansion at a cost of $56,800.

According to airport documents, MidAmerica officials are looking to add 404 parking spaces in order to “provide adequate contingency to accommodate additional flights above what is already scheduled.” The preliminary estimated cost of the expansion is $861,000. The project could start as early as March, depending on weather.

A Transportation Improvement Proposal project list includes a parking lot expansion of 241 spaces, at an estimated cost of $664,000.

The 2017 expected peak of 21 flights per week is expected to equate to a demand of 1,018 parking spaces, which is 180 more spaces than currently exist, airport documents say.

“As we have been expanding our service and expanding our use of the airport we’ve had to expand the parking lot,” Cantwell said. “We need to get on this right now, or we’re going to be behind and we won’t have any place for people to park.”

Cantwell said airport staff is working to have the state share costs on the project, but they’re not sure on the timing of the discussions.

Earlier this year, the airport completed a parking lot expansion to 838 parking spaces.

In other action

▪  ADA project: Commissioners approved a Juvenile Detention Center and Probation Office renovation. The work is necessary to bring the buildings into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Impact Strategies is set to carry out the project for $307,573 under the approved contract and is higher than the roughly $254,000 originally projected.

“We found out there were a few things in there that we missed and we added those to the project,” said James Brede, director of buildings for the county.

The county’s general fund is paying for the project.

▪  Sharing the runway with Scott Air Force Base: The Scott Air Force Base runway is scheduled to be unavailable from January through March, and the Air Force plans to use the MidAmerica Airport runway.

If weather is bad for Scott’s airfield grading project, the Air Force may extend the project through April, under an agreement approved Thursday by the County PBC between the county and the Air Force. The agreement needs to be approved by County Board members.

The Air Force will pay MidAmerica $40,000 a month for substantial use of the runway for takeoffs and landings, under the agreement. The Department of Defense and FAA definition for substantial use is 300 landings or having a gross cumulative weight of 5 million pounds of government aircraft in one month.

▪  Consultant extension: The public building commission extended a contract with consultant John Chang, who provides assistance with generating air freight between MidAmerica and international destinations, with a focus on Asia.

The rate will be $12,000 over a six-month period, which is the same rate as Chang’s previous contract extension.

Cantwell said Chang has been helpful with discussions on projects in China for a couple of years.

▪  Union contract approval: The Public Building Commission approved a four-year contract with the Local 459 Laborers union, which represents 19 PBC employees.

The tentative agreement still needs to be signed by the union and County Board Chairman, Brede said.

The contract, which is the first for the newly formed union, includes a $1,000 signing bonus for each employees, as well as a $500 per person per year safety bonus if the employee doesn’t get hurt on the job.

“It gives them a chance to make sure to keep the liability claims down,” Brede said. “It gives them a reason to think about what they’re doing.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter