PITTSTON TWP. – The combination of record rainfall last year and the continued finding of underground utility lines that were not known to exist have contributed to an additional $366,500 in the ongoing costs of two projects nearing completion at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.
Barry J. Centini, the airport’s director, said 95 percent of the increased costs for both projects should be covered by the Federal Aviation Administration, which is paying for 95 percent of the overall project costs. But he added while he is confident the reimbursement will be approved, he can’t guarantee it.
The first project, constructing a new apron for the General Aviation section of the airport, is being done by Popple Construction of Laflin, will now cost $5.96 million after the airport’s board approved a change order request for an increase of $300,330 on Thursday. The blame was chiefly placed on the soggy weather last year that caused soil and fill materials to become waterlogged and unusable.
The airport saw a record for rainfall last year at 60 inches, which was 21.74 inches above normal rainfall totals for a year, according to the National Weather Service.
“Last year’s rainfall was far above normal and we suffered because of that,” said airport engineer Steve Mykulyn.
Mykulyn said there have been two previous change orders for this project that totaled an additional $484,757. He blamed those increases to permitting, erosion and sediment issues and changes to the route of one of the roads being built. In total, the three change orders for the project have brought the project’s total cost up nearly $800,000.
The second ongoing project in that same section of the airport is the rehabilitation and extension of Hangar Road, a project that also got underway last summer and is slated to end this year.
Scartelli Construction Services, of Taylor, is doing that work and it requested, and was approved Thursday by the board, for a change order increasing its payment by $66,170 for the now $2.05 million project.
There were 10 reasons given for the increase in payment amount, many of them having to do with repairing damaged utility lines, rerouting existing utility lines or installing lines.
This part of the airport was previously leased out to private airlines or businesses in the 1960s and 70s, including Pocono Airlines, which apparently installed utility lines without letting the airport know. “We have hit a multitude of utility lines that no one knew were in that vicinity,” said Rick Holes, an engineer with L.R. Kimball, the airport’s hired engineer to oversee the Hangar Road project.
When pressed by Lackawanna County Commissioner Corey D. O’Brien, chairman of the airport board, as to whether these change order requests are all legitimate and whether some of these issues should have been anticipated or accounted for before work started, Holes said each request is “scrutinized” and not all are brought to the board for approval.
Holes estimated that only 30 percent of the requests are found to be legitimate enough to be brought to the board for its consideration, including the ones the board considered and ultimately approved on Thursday. A lot of the reasons behind the increases were simply out of the airport and the contractor’s hands, Centini said. “Both of these projects, when you look at them, the South General Aviation apron was hit with bad weather; (The Hangar Road project area) was a mish mosh we’re trying to figure out.”