By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The dollars and timelines have been set, and now city council has approved the hands that will be giving the main runway at the Oshawa Executive Airport a new life.
At council’s regular meeting on Monday, Metric Contracting Services was stamped as the contractor for the airport’s runway rehabilitation, coming in with the lowest of a series of bids at just under $5.5 million.
In total, the city received eight bids for the project that was approved as part of a batch of time-sensitive capital project’s during this year’s budget process.
The bid from Metric came in $460,000 lower than the pre-tender engineering estimates for the project. A city report attributes the cost savings mostly to changes in market conditions with construction items and fill removal coming in lower than original estimates.
“We’re very pleased, we received a number of great bids and the low bid is a great contractor,” says Stephen Wilcox, the airport manager. “We’re looking forward to working with him and we’re very pleased with the numbers the way they’ve come in.”
The cost estimates have been a rocky road up to this point. Councillors were surprised in December when the costs of the project nearly doubled to $6 million from the original $3.2 million forecasted in the Airport Business Plan approved in 2015. The increased costs were mainly attributed to additional work to some of the airport’s taxiways in order to avoid further disturbances in the future, as well as paving the grassed runway end safety areas (RESAs). An earlier city report also attributed the increase in costs to excavation, the placement of the granular base and the removal of the existing sub-drains to be replaced with new ones along the runway edge.
In order to swallow the increase in costs, Oshawa council sidelined its own approved debt policy by taking out an additional $4 million of internal debt to pay for it.
Council’s policy for such a process states that no more than 40 per cent of the city’s minimum cash balance should be invested in this type of debt. The minimum cash balance for 2016 was approximately $35 million, meaning the debt need to be capped at $14 million. The $4 million needed for the runway pushes council’s interfund note debt load to $14.8 million.
The project is getting a small hand up from the Region of Durham, which approved contributing $100,000 towards it during this year’s budget process.
The project is set to begin on Sept. 5, and will see the runway shut down for the duration of the 35 day project. Contractors will be working 24/7 throughout the project in order to minimize the impacts on airport business and users.
“We’ve been working with the tenants and the users here for a long time on the project so they’re well aware of the timing,” Wilcox says. “We selected the September timing to actually minimize the project.”
While the preferred construction time is the summer months, Wilcox says that July and August are also the busiest time of the year for the airport, with several training programs taking advantage of the airport. For that reason, it made sense to push it to the fall.
The project is a complete overhaul of Runway 12/30, the airport’s main runway, including electrical and lighting systems, something that hasn’t been done in 75 years.
The timing of the project is also convenient as Oshawa prepares for the eventual closure of the Buttonville Airport, originally slated for the fall of 2017. However, Wilcox says that closure has been extended to the fall of 2018.
Original estimates predict that when the Buttonville airport does close, it is projected that aircraft movements in Oshawa will increase to over 100,000 annually – more than double 2014’s numbers of 51,758 movements.
However, Wilcox says the project is solely about Oshawa, and the plain and simple need that the runway needs to be replaced.
“The runway is really at end of life,” he says, noting that it was actually slated for rehabilitation in 2016, but was pushed out to this year with mitigation work.