Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Springfield-Branson National Airport: Poised to Seize the Lion's Share of Federal Aviation Stimulus Funds Available in Missouri

It's unclear how many of the 125 temporary jobs created will benefit local workers

The Springfield News-Leader article in today's issue, covering the City Council's majority decision Tuesday to approve an emergency bill in a special Council meeting, for the purpose of accepting over $14.8 million in Federal Aviation Administration grant monies to build a new taxiway at the Springfield-Branson National Airport, includes information on why Councilman Nicholas Ibarra was the lone Councilmember to vote against accepting the grant. I have been unable to, for reasons I won't go into right now, contact Mr. Ibarra to discuss his reasons with him, personally.

I believe, since joining the City Council in April, Ibarra has voted against the use of any stimulus funds from the federal government, for any reason, within the City of Springfield.

In the past, Ibarra's reasoning for voting against the use of stimulus funds has included the complaint that the projects brought forth by the City do not serve to fullfill the intent of the stimulus funding to facilitate job creation.

According to the News-Leader, Ibarra noted the jobs would be temporary jobs and would end before Christmas, 2009.

Thanks to Councilman Scott Bailes, we also know the estimated 125 jobs created will not all benefit local construction workers.

"Gary (Cyr), I think when we spoke, you had mentioned 125 employed with this stimulus money, and then you mentioned Illinois Paving, do they bring their own employees from out of state?" Bailes asked.

Cyr, the airport manager, was unable to give a clear estimate on the number of local workers who would be employed on the project, citing the fact that there are many components to the project.

"They have some out of state (employees), and then local talent," Cyr said. "When I say 125, that's probably the average of a month's time frame. They may exceed that at certain points when we're doing multiple tasks out there....We did an analysis this morning with our consultants to, what do we think would be a benchmark number on average, per month, of employees that will be working out there."

Further, Cyr added, airport administration will update the number of jobs created.

"We'll be doing updates on a weekly basis on the number of employees that are on the job," Cyr said. He described the components within the project as involving dirt work; lime treated sub-grade; asphalt; concrete; lighting; painting; and striping. "We're anticipating that, probably, we're going to average somewhere with 125 plus employees during the course of this project."

Of the $28 million in aviation stimulus project funds, allotted to the state by the federal government, Springfield will bring home the lion's share.

City Manager Greg Burris said this was due to Cyr and his staff's preparedness.

"The reason that the Springfield-Branson National Airport is getting such a large percentage of these monies that are available in Missouri, is a direct result of Gary and his staff, the airport board, being exceptionally well prepared to do this. I mean, they had done the planning, they were ready to move forward on this," Burris said.

Cyr said the airport had not expected to be able to go ahead with the project until 2010.

"This was designed and talked about 4 years ago," Cyr noted. "The funding was not there, in place, to do it at that time....The stimulus money is allowing us to jump ahead and address this with the support of the FAA because it is a safety concern."

Although the explanation for Council Bill 2009-108 included the original estimate of $18.6 million and a net expenditure adjustment to approximately $14.9 million, it did not include a list of bidders for the project.

Related: CityConnect: "City Council Approves Airport Stimulus Project"


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