Delays in airport runway project racking up fines specified in work contract

By ANTHONY WARREN,

More than a year after it was slated to wrap up, the $17.4 million airport runway repaving project has been delayed again.

And for developers, those delays mean that late fees are adding up.

Superior Asphalt, the company brought on to repave the runway, is facing fines of $2,500 for each day for each the project is not complete beyond its initial scheduled completion date. 

By the time the runway is finished, the firm could conceivably owe the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) more than a million dollars.

Through June 1, fines for Superior totaled $480,000. Based on the calendar days that have elapsed since, late fees could now total more than $770,000.

By December 31, an additional $240,000 in fees could be tacked on.

Those figures do not account for rain delays, holidays or other factors that would be out of the developers’ control.

It was unclear whether developers would be assessed damages on federal holidays.

Exact figures through deadline were not available. Officials with the JMAA refused to provide the data without an open record request being submitted. 

Runway work was initially slated to be finished in July 2018. In December, airport officials said the work would wrap by February 2019. Then, the completion date was pushed to June of this year.

Last week, airport officials said contractors won’t finish repaving the west runway until January 2020. 

“We are on target for it,” said LSherie Dean, JMAA spokeswoman. 

Dean said she couldn’t speak to the reasons behind the delays.

Former JMAA Chief Executive Officer Carl Newman said the project was delayed, in part, by the wet winter weather.

However, he went on to say that contractors were not making progress on the days they could.

Newman is no longer with the agency. 

Superior, a subsidiary of Yates Construction, was brought on in 2017.

The firm’s proposal was chosen through the blind bid process. Airport officials said Superior submitted the lowest and best bid.

Work is being paid for with a $17.2 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and a $200,000 grant from the Mississippi Department of Transportation, both of which were awarded to JMAA in 2016.

The project includes milling and overlaying the 8,500-foot-long western runway, as well as making improvements to shoulders, runway lighting and drainage.

Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said he had not seen the agreement and was not aware that the work had not been completed.

He said any issues with the contract would have to be worked out between JMAA and Superior.

Arlene Salac, spokeswoman for the FAA, said the agency was aware the project was behind. However, she said JMAA is responsible for managing the project on a day-to-day basis.

She said the airport is not in danger of losing the grant money as a result of the delays. The authority has until September 21, 2020 to complete the project.

One runway at the airport remains open. About 27 flights originate out of Jackson-Evers daily. At press time, no delays had resulted because of the closed runway.

Yates officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

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