Delays in settlements have benefited local airport

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By VICKI BROWN

In the October 14th meeting of the Lowcountry Regional Airport Commission, officials reported that the airport has greatly benefited from postponing settling with the Insurance Reserve Fund (IRF) over tornado damage.

According to Airport Commission attorney Bert Duffie, when IRF first came to the area after the April 13, 2020 tornados to assess damage, they offered low settlements in regards to the repairing and replacement costs. “We refused to settle until we could complete some investigating of the total destruction. It turned out to be a good decision,” said Duffie. “In one instance, IRF was willing to offer us $36,000 for damages, but after further investigation and talking with engineers, we discovered much more damage than we thought.

“IRF ended up settling with us for $126,871.81. We would have lost almost $100,000 if we had settled too soon. IRF was not trying to deceive us, but they honestly didn’t know there was unseen damage. We didn’t know either until the damage was assessed even further,” explained Duffie.

Most of the repairs are in the process of being made, including a giant sliding door that is on backorder due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. John Stieglitz, capital projects director, said he is frustrated with the delays.

“There are so many things we need, but the pandemic has put them on backorder, or we are waiting a very long time for items we need to come in,” said Stieglitz. “In some instances, our hands are tied.” He went on to explain that one of the engineers who has been working on the hangar situation recently passed away. “Charles Brightwell has been part of this since the beginning. He will be missed, and we are saddened by his passing. We are taking time to mourn and regroup before we make any decisions,” he said.

LRA Commission member Phillip Taylor, along with pilot and historian Jeff Grigg, spoke at length about other ways to fund improvements to the airport.

Taylor suggested researching the Civil Rights Grant program which gives funding to areas known for African American contributions to society. The airport’s link to the Tuskagee Airmen and its involvement in World War II make it a prime candidate for the grant which can offer up to $500,000.

Grigg spoke about having portions of the airport listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. Some of the buildings on the grounds of LRA were built in WWII, such as the Norden bombsite Building, the Tetrahedron, and the WWII Hangar. “These buildings need to be preserved,” said Taylor.

The commission voted to research the grant and National Register before committing and bring the information back to the next meeting.

In other airport news:

Fuel sales off to good start

LRA Operations Manager Roger Medlin sent a report to commission members stating that September fuel sales were average at just under 19,500 gallons for the month, due to hunting season in full swing.

October fuel sales are off to a very good start even with the cost of jet fuel on the rise. He also reported in a written statement that Hangar G had been completed and was ready for use.

Taxiway Reconfiguration Project delayed

Tommy Rowe, airport manager, reported that the Taxiway Reconfiguration Project has been delayed until early spring because of delays in getting electrical equipment due to the pandemic. In the meantime, the commission will continue on with the installation of a replacement flagpole for approximately $7,500 by Mitchell Construction, the low bidder.

“An on-site check of the completed Comprehensive Drainage Project with the project inspector and a representative of the contractor Quality Enterprises found some discrepancies in the work that was done earlier this year,” said Rowe. “That will be corrected the next few weeks.”

He went on to report that the installation of the emergency generator for the electrical vault is 90 percent complete.

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