Kenai plans airport terminal renovation

On Wednesday the Kenai City Council moved ahead with plans to renovate the Kenai Muncipal Airport’s passenger terminal.

Council members saw a cost-breakdown and floorplan drawings for the project, commissioned from Kenai-based engineering firm Wince-Corthell-Bryson and funded by a $521,007 council appropriation in August 2017. That funding — which included a $488,444 contribution from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — was short of the work that Wince-Corthell-Bryson determined needed done on the terminal, and on Wednesday the council unanimously appropriated an additional $286,288 for renovation design from the Airport Special Revenue Fund, subject to reimbursement from future FAA grants for construction.

Council member Jim Glendenning asked Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander to explain the need for additional funding.

“Was there a misfire in the original design concept, were there unforcast requirements?” Glendenning asked.

Ostrander said that before Wince-Corthell-Bryson began its examination of the terminal “we didn’t really know that scope was.”

“The original estimate for this was based on the best-known scenario — what they knew about the terminal,” Ostrander said. “But when we opened that lid and started looking at the different things that needed to be rehabbed in the building, it became evident the scope was much larger than what we had originally anticipated. It grew significantly from what we thought we knew, but we didn’t know very much.”

Kenai Municipal Airport Manager Mary Bondurant said construction on terminal renovations could begin in the fall, though the project is still being designed and no timeline has been set. Whether the renovation would be done in phases or all at once is another open question, she said.

The Federal Aviation Administration — which usually pays 93.75 percent of grant-eligible projects, Bondurant said — would cover $8.1 million of the renovation’s estimated total $9.7 million cost, leaving $1.6 million to the city. The cost includes $1.84 million for flooring, wall repair, and painting, $1.13 million for a new roof and asbestos abatement, $1.02 million for electrical and mechanical upgrades, and $638,505 for exterior siding.

“Modernization and energy savings will be a big part of this,” Bondurant said.

Bondurant said the Kenai airport terminal has been renovated three times since it was built in 1966 — it was expanded in 1983; in 1988 the restaurant and lounge were added, and its sidewalks, entryways, and parking lots received work in 2004.

In addition to work on the terminal’s structure and electrical system, the upcoming renovations would also rearrange space for the terminal’s users. The present terminal has five spaces for airlines to lease as ticket and baggage counters, though only two airlines — Grant Aviation and Ravn Alaska — use them, occupying two spaces each. The renovation would rearrange the airline space into two larger counter and office areas.

“I was told at one time there were five airlines here, but it was years and years ago,” Bondurant said. For the 20 years she’s managed the airport, Bondurant said the terminal has had two or three airline tenants. Grant came to Kenai in 2005, while Ravn (known as Era Aviation before changing its name in 2014) has occupied the terminal since 1983.

Grant and Ravn presently pay $32.24 per square foot per year for their spaces — whether they’d pay more for the renovated space will be determined when their five-year lease agreements with the city are renegotiated, which is set to happen at the end of June.

Bondurant said the present airline agreement would probably be extended until after the terminal renovation is complete, then renegotiated. At that point, Ostrander told the city council, “it’s likely that their rents will increase.”

The terminal’s four rental car desks would also be consolidated into three. Accommodations on the south side of the terminal such as the Double O Express Restaurant, the second-floor Upper Deck Lounge, and the new children’s reading room would remain largely the same, with the addition of a new conference room.

The Kenai airport may also reconfigure ground transport options at the terminal. Bondurant has recently met to discuss pick off and drop off arrangements with representatives of Alaska Cab, ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, and the Ninilchik Traditional Council’s new bus service from Kenai to Homer.

Reach Ben Boettger at bboettger@peninsulaclarion.com

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