Airport building halted
The Grand Junction Regional Airport board voted unanimously Tuesday to suspend by March 25 construction on the airport’s new administration building because the source of funds to complete the work is uncertain.
Grant applications previously submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration to pay for the work were rescinded in January because they contained misleading descriptions of the structure’s uses.
Applications submitted since January to the FAA for grants to complete a variety of projects are not yet being reviewed because the authority lacks written policies the FAA requires, like a procurement code of conduct, authority staffer Ben Johnson told the board.
The decision came after a two-hour, closed-door executive session during which no action was taken, board member Rick Wagner said.
“We’ve had a pretty recent development of uncertainty ... on the part of the FAA,” board Chairman Steve Wood said during a break. “I would just say a recent development in the timing of the funding.”
The board quizzed staff to make sure the timing of the suspension would not prevent contractors from securing the building to make sure the 35 percent of the work already completed does not deteriorate before construction can be restarted.
Wood said it was impossible to determine when construction might start again.
“I think the taxpayers are being well-served by this motion,” board member Paul Nelson said.
Suspension of work is permitted under the authority’s contract with Shaw Construction when the board determines “conditions are unfavorable to the prosecution of the work,” authority lawyer Michael Morgan told the board.
The conditions must have been “unforeseen” at the time the contract was made in order for the authority to suspend work in compliance with the agreement, Morgan said.
The board has been challenged to untangle a complicated web of contracts and grants executed by the airport’s former, and now fired, director of aviation, Rex Tippetts.
Despite the suspension, the board also moved to pay Shaw Construction’s most recent invoice of $550,000 and expects to pay an even greater sum after Shaw’s next invoice arrives March 25.
In a related development, the board voted unanimously to withhold payment of $36,000 from an architectural firm hired to administer the construction contract pending a review of their fees.
Fentress Architects will not be paid its latest invoice for $36,000 and a contract to memorialize the engagement will not be approved until the entire $346,000 billed by Fentress is shown to be reasonable by independent reviewers.
The FAA requires an independent review of fees for all contracts worth more than $100,000, Wagner said.
In other news, Johnson said a perimeter road built by a gravel hauler after a controversial airport fence was constructed with the authority’s permission, but without proper permitting.
The road is currently in Mesa County, not city limits, and gives access to BLM land behind the airport.
It also causes flooding onto the Grand Junction Motorspeedway, which is situated right next door, Johnson said.
The authority’s illegal road runs parallel to the speedway’s legal road and both access a frontage road at the same location where several accidents have taken place, he said.
The authority could be exposed to financial liability as a result of the accidents, Morgan said.
The authority and the county are working on a plan where the county would annex the roadway and the authority would demolish a 600-foot length of its road, which would prevent flooding and eliminate the intersection where the accidents occurred, Johnson said.
In still other news, the board approved a special telephone line for people wishing to report fraud or ethical violations at the airport, and a contract for a local investigative firm to monitor and investigate the calls.
Finally, the Airport Authority asked the FBI last week to return ledgers and other records necessary to complete the authority’s financial statements for 2013, interim director Amy Jordan said during a break.
“The FBI took all of our financial records,” said Gary Schroen, Airport Authority deputy director of finance and business. “We have nothing from before the raid.”