The latest meeting of the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority (OWAA) centered primarily on various project updates, including two proposed building demolitions. Pictured here discussing the potential undertakings are OWAA members Mike Munson, left, and Rob Huebel.

OSCODA – Members of the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority (OWAA) are pursuing the demolition of two buildings, which may cost upwards of $600,000.

This topic was discussed, along with other project updates, at the authority’s Feb. 13 meeting.

Attendees were reminded by Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport (OWA) Manager Gary Kellan that OWAA has contracted with Spicer Engineering to help prepare for implementing the demolitions.

He said Spicer was initially tasked with providing a preliminary estimate of cost for the work, which involves razing Building No. 5006 and Building No. 5065 on the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base.

There were a couple different options offered, with the figures including such items as the actual demolition, site restoration, abatement, disposal and permitting.

Spicer predicts that the demolition of Building No. 5006 will cost $287,575 as a stand-alone project, while it is estimated to cost $304,075 to tear down Building No. 5065.

Should the projects be combined, though, Kellan pointed out that it is expected to total approximately $581,750 – or roughly $10,000 less than demolishing the buildings as separate undertakings.

As an example, he explained that if one project was deferred for a year or so, OWAA would have to consider the fact that mobilization costs will be doubled, and there will be additional insurance expenses. Therefore, the price would obviously be more, when broken apart.

Kellan said he was seeking a discussion with OWAA members on whether they feel comfortable moving these projects forward, based on the preliminary estimates of cost.

He noted that, in addition to a typical operating budget of $800,000 a year, there is about $2.3 million in cash reserves. “So we have a fairly decent cushion for implementing these projects as proposed.”

Kellan said that, over and above this, the authority also agreed at their last meeting to have staff approach the OWA-Local Development Finance Authority (OWA-LDFA) and inquire about possibly sharing some of these costs, to further mitigate the amount of money that comes out of OWAA’s cash reserves.

Rob Huebel, OWAA representative for Iosco County, said he knows that several buildings have been taken down in the past.

“Do these numbers, in your opinion, seem in line?” he asked Kellan of the preliminary estimates.

Kellan confirmed this, saying, “I went back through the demolition projects that we did before and we had about 25 bids.”

He said he came up with an average, and then factored in inflation, since the last project of this type was done about 15 years ago.

Kellan’s estimated figures were in the neighborhood of $200,000 to $250,000 per building

“And you can see that that’s sort of what they came up with, as well,” he said of Spicer, adding that it was anticipated that the projects would get into this price range.

As recently reported, the airport authority voted at their Jan. 9 meeting to recommend the cost-sharing proposal for Building No. 5006 and Building No. 5065 demolition expenses.

Kellan explained that the OWA-LDFA operates in accordance with requirements set forth by Michigan Public Act 57 of 2018, and a Tax Increment Finance Plan which has been locally adopted by Oscoda Township. The plan provides that OWAA will annually recommend projects to be implemented with tax increment revenue.

Kellan also said that the OWA-LDFA fund balance is expected to be approximately $350,500, after depositing the 2019 tax increment revenue, which will be available for public improvement projects going into the 2020 construction season.

He reminded the board that Spicer Group and Northern Analytical Services have already been retained to prepare project specifications and hazardous materials survey reporting, in preparation of demolishing the two buildings.

Kellan remarked at the time that a $400,000-$500,000 price tag would be a significant bite out of cash reserves. So, he wanted to have a discussion on the possibility of OWAA and the OWA-LDFA sharing the expenses. The idea would be to get the bids in hand first, and then figure out what each party can comfortably afford.

He gave some background details, as well, noting that the two entities have completed road projects in the past, and are envisioning continuing to do road projects.

It is Kellan’s recommendation to next tackle a couple roads in the hangar area – Flight Street and Skyway Street.

The problem with doing so right away, however, is that there are two structures in the middle of these roads – Building No. 5006, which is the former wing command headquarters, and Building No. 5065, a former training facility.

Therefore, Kellan has advised against putting in the new road surfaces, then subsequently doing a demolition project and having to pull all the heavy debris out of there, with large vehicles traveling over the new surfaces.

OWAA members have also gone over the fact that there is no real viable opportunity to rent the buildings, which have essentially been vacant since the base closure more than 25 years ago.

As reported, the structures have sat empty for a long time, they are deteriorating and it is expected that they may contain the presence of lead-based paints, mold, asbestos and other such materials.

Further, Kellan said each building is also a blight issue, especially 5065, which has had brick falling off of it for years.

He noted during the most recent OWAA meeting that, if the authority is agreeable to moving forward on the demo projects, they can seek bids to find out a more concrete price for the work.

“I think we should,” commented OWAA Chair Kevin Boyat.

Huebel agreed, saying the sooner they can get started, the better.

He pointed out that everybody is busy when it comes to construction projects, and it seems as though it is taking forever to complete such efforts. “If we hold off; wait around, we will be another year or so out before we get there.”

Greenbush Township’s representative for OWAA, Dave Dailey, said this money may be needed elsewhere, though, should Oscoda be chosen for the Michigan Launch Initiative. (See separate story).

He said he doesn’t know how much infrastructure changes and other work will have to be done to accommodate a spaceport operation; how much funding may or may not be provided by Oscoda Township and/or the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; whether money will have to be put in prior to receiving any potential grant funds; if sewer lines will have to be expanded to account for new development; and so on.

“If that’s the case, we might need to have some money on reserve,” Dailey cautioned.

“I have no problem going out for bids. We don’t have to accept them,” Boyat said.

He added that Dailey has a good point, but, “They might be way out of our league, anyway, Dave,” he said of the price tags.

Kevin Beliveau, OWAA representative for AuSable Township, asked if the bid specs were ready and prepared for the demolitions, which Kellan confirmed.

Beliveau agreed that Dailey raised a good point, but that this shouldn’t delay OWAA from going on to the next step, which is soliciting bids.

He also pointed out that by the time the bids come back in, the announcement will have been made as to whether Oscoda is even being considered to move forward in the Michigan Launch Initiative.

Huebel’s motion to seek bids on the project passed in a 6-0 vote, with Oscoda Township’s OWAA representative, Aaron Weed, not in attendance.

Estimates will be solicited for demolishing the buildings as a joint project, as well as for doing each one separately.

Huebel shared that he agreed with Dailey, and that if the numbers are out of line, then perhaps they won’t proceed with the work.

In other project updates, Kellan told OWAA members that pre-bid site visits were held earlier this week for both the Iosco Apron and Taxiway E resurfacing endeavors.

He said there were four companies represented at the site visit for the Iosco Apron. “That’s a concrete project. You might remember we’re going to put an eight-inch lift on the west end of Iosco Apron.”

As for Taxiway E – the connector between the apron and the OWA runway – Kellan said one company showed up for this site visit.

He advised that bids for each project are expected by the end of the month, and that he will bring the results to the next OWAA meeting in March.

Beliveau asked whether the company that stuck around for the smaller taxiway project was one of the four businesses from the other site visit, to which Kellan answered yes.

Beliveau then questioned if there would be anything that would preclude all four companies from bidding both jobs anyway.

Kellan said no, explaining that it wasn’t a mandatory site visit.

Beliveau said this is what he was getting at and, just because only one company was there in person for the taxiway visit,  OWAA could still get four bids on these projects.