Library construction improves by $400,000

After the South Coastal Library expansion project was briefly put on the back burner due to faltering bid procedure last month, Sussex County Engineer Mike Izzo was pleased to report on the favorable update of the process. He addressed the issue Tuesday, Nov. 13, at the Sussex County Council meeting on an update to the library project.

In early October, when bids were originally opened for a project that is planned to increase the size of the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach, to 21,500 square feet, Nason Construction of Wilmington came in with the lowest of three bids, at $4.64 million for the project.

However, the bids were quickly thrown out following a protest from second-lowest bidder, Gillis Gilkerson Inc. of Salisbury, Md. Nason Construction had failed to include a list of subcontractors at the submission of their bid, and the proposals were resubmitted rather than officially award the contract on a flawed bid.

“Frankly, I was hopeful that we would receive numbers very similar to what we had opened the first time,” said Izzo on Tuesday. “But once in a while, you get lucky.”

After the bids were opened again, Nason returned with the lowest bid — this time, by better than $400,000. County Council awarded construction rights to Nason Construction for $4.204 million.

“Competition really worked to our advantage,” said Izzo.

At the time of the first bid, three construction companies had entered bids, but the second bid session yielded estimates from a total of nine area contractors.

“Even in the first go-around,” Izzo continued, “we were under our engineer estimate. But this time, we’re significantly lower.”

County Council is expected to return within 30 days to discuss final cost arrangements of the project with the library support group Friends of South Coastal Library (FOSCL). Notice of award will be given to Nason Construction, though no execution of the contract will begin until confirmation of cost with FOSCL, which is taking on a portion of the cost of the project through ongoing fundraising efforts in the community.

In addition to library construction, County Council on Tuesday took a look at the leasing procedures of T-hangar space at the Sussex County Airport, a growing concern over the past few years.

“We operate a public-use airport,” said Jim Hickin, director of the Sussex County Airport and Industrial Park. “People come to the airport for a lot of different reasons. I think it’s important that when they come to the airport, they know what to expect from us and we know what to expect from them, whether they’re eating lunch in the restaurant, buying fuel, tying down their airplane or renting one of our T-hangar spots.”

Among some of the issues Hickin addressed were updated specifications and wording of acceptable policies concerning the T-hangars.

“We intend our T-hangar for storage of registered aircraft by registered owners,” he said. “We can set the bar by using the term ‘registered aircraft.’ Realistically, it [takes away the opportunity] for the gentleman who’s building an airplane that’s all in pieces and hasn’t got to the point where it’s registered yet.”

He continued, explaining the importance of working directly with the aircraft owner. “It’s not unusual for someone who buys an airplane to set up an LLC or get incorporated or do something that protects his assets and yields his liability issues,” said Hickin, noting that close to half of those leasing space in the T-hangar are in this position.

The specification came as a result of a recent lease termination, in which the tenant did not own the airplane.

“It was owned by someone else,” Hickin continued. “They called it a lease agreement, but what it basically boiled down to was a rental agreement. We had someone who was not a tenant that was running an aircraft rental business out of the hangar, and we’re not controlling that the way FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] expects us to. This is why I think it’s important to deal directly with whoever owns that aircraft.”

He also touched on the waiting-list process for leasing space in the T-hangar, due to limited room.

“Once you have that position on the waiting list, it’s yours to keep,” he said. “You can’t buy it, sell it, trade it, barter it away. To come off the list, you have to reapply and go back to the bottom of the waiting list.”

“If we do have a vacant hangar, which we do now,” he continued, “we will send a certified letter to the first owner on the list, offering him the hangar.”

From there, the owner has three business days to confirm his desire for the hangar. Within 30 days of that, he must show proof that he owns and is certified to operate an aircraft. Within 60 days of his lease starting, he will have 60 days to have the airplane in the hangar. The next three owners on the waiting list will then be notified of their advancement and position in line. If an owner in the hangar sells his airplane, they have the option of offering the hangar to the new buyer.

“The other problem we’ve been having has been with our leases,” said Hickin. “Leases were rewritten a couple of years ago, and we’ve learned a few lessons in that time.”

All leases at the T-hangar were scheduled to expire at the end of January 2008 and automatically rollover for one year. County Council, at the recommendation of Hickin, agreed to terminate all of those leases, replacing them with a new document at the end of January, neglecting the rollover.

The new lease documents primarily include clarification concerning proper use and condition of the property. The use agreement accepted by county council will run month-to-month with automatic renewal, unless either side gives 30 days notice. Rates for the space will be rounded to the nearest $5 increment.