This photo of the resurfaced Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport runway shows just one of the many projects which have recently taken place at the property. It was during the latest airport authority meeting when members went over some other impending work, including efforts to promote further development at the site. This photo was shared by AKT Peerless, which assisted in preparing documents related to a potential spaceport operation at the airport, as summarized in last week’s edition of this publication.

OSCODA – The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority (OWAA) has a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to various projects, and they are continuing to push ahead as they check off items on their to-do list.

The board, who met Sept. 19, went over the numerous jobs that are in the works, including one item which was rolled over from their last meeting in August.

OWAA authorized its chairman, along with Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport (OWA) Manager Gary Kellan, to sign a contract hiring Spicer Group to provide engineering services. This is in support of implementing building improvements, including structural and architectural modifications, as well as demolition projects at the airport.

Approval was granted in a 5-1 vote, with Kevin Beliveau not in attendance. Aaron Weed was opposed, citing during the previous meeting that he is not satisfied with other work which has been completed by Spicer.

OWAA was initially presented with the two bids that were received for the building projects – one from OHM Advisors, Midland, $299,000; and the other from Spicer Group, Saginaw, $92,500.

According to Kellan, OWAA’s Landside Capital Improvement Plan includes a number of projects which require engineering design and support services.

“The scope of work includes preparing; project designs, cost estimating, planning and assistance with soliciting construction contractor bids for completing building improvements and building demolition projects,” he stated.

He said the proposed projects involve a vehicle maintenance facility expansion at buildings No. 16 and 20, along with floor drain modifications, oil water separator installation and exterior siding replacement at this site.

Also being pursued is the demolition of two, 28,000-square-foot office buildings, No. 5006 and No. 5065.

Further, Building No. 27 is proposed to be converted from offices, for use as an industrial shop or manufacturing operation. This will entail the replacement of exterior siding and roof shingles.

Kellan reminded OWAA that, during their August meeting, staff recommended going with the low bidder. However, there was considerable deliberation about the hiring of this company, and it was requested that some additional reference checks be done on Spicer.

“Staff contacted four municipal government agencies that have utilized the services of Spicer Group when completing building construction and structural rehabilitation modifications,” Kellan advised.

“All of the reports were very positive and three of these municipalities worked directly with the engineer that would be assigned to this project,” he told the board.

OWAA member Dave Dailey said this eliminates his concerns, so he made the motion to proceed with Spicer.

Weed, who is also the supervisor of Oscoda Township, elaborated the prior month on why he did not want to utilize Spicer.

“I’m going to tell you right now, we have had so many issues with Spicer Engineering that, while the price might seem attractive, it usually does not turn out well,” he remarked at the time. “To put it gently, it’s been horrible.”

Of his qualms, Weed claims that the company’s projects always end up costing more – either during the project or after the project – that their due diligence is not good, and that their work has been incomplete. 

He said he understands that Spicer used to be good in the past, but he has heard from other elected officials in surrounding counties and municipalities that it has definitely taken a different turn.

More specifically, Weed said the company was brought on to do work at the township’s sewer lagoon, but Spicer did not engineer the drains adequately and Oscoda ended up having to pay a lot of money to have this redone. 

He also said that Spicer was on hand to monitor and manage Phase I of the township’s water main extension project.

“And, instead of letting the township know that the contractor was doing a horrible job on it, they allowed the contractor to press forward and we ended up having to hire another contractor to come in and redo that work. And Spicer still wants to get paid for it,” Weed said. “One hundred sixty five feet of main was too shallow, and 22 service leads were too shallow – and they had a guy on scene every day to monitor that, and didn’t say a word until a month after the project was completed.”

Following the discussion, the item was postponed to OWAA’s September meeting.

In other business on Sept. 19, OWAA followed up on action taken at their June 13 meeting, when they authorized submitting an application to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), seeking to participate in the Michigan Site Readiness grant program.

“OWAA has recently been notified that the Airport Authority’s application has been selected for a $100,000 grant award,” Kellan stated. “As a reminder, the local match is to be $30,000.”

He said the project would essentially involve evaluating and then creating preliminary designs for expanding infrastructure to vacant land at OWA, for creating additional industrial sites to be marketed for further development. 

This will also help OWAA step up its marketing procedures, Kellan said, as another goal is to get people to make the leap to new construction.

“We believe that the Wurtsmith Airport site has great potential for future business growth and investment and are looking forward to working with you closely on this effort,” stated MEDC representative Valerie Hoag, in a letter to Kellan.

In a 6-0 vote, OWAA authorized Kellan and Chairman Kevin Boyat to sign the proposed grant agreement for participating in the site readiness program.

In separate action, Kellan noted that preliminary discussions have been had with representatives of Kalitta Air, regarding the possibility of building another large aircraft maintenance hangar.

In anticipation of that possibility, a site assessment for existing environmental contamination is being conducted with funding assistance provided by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, he stated in his report to the board, adding that the assessment is being performed by DLZ Environmental Engineering.

He explained that another prerequisite for new construction within airport operating areas involves securing “Air Space Review and Approval” from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Michigan Department of Transportation-Bureau of Aeronautics (MDOT-Aero).

“That process includes evaluating potential environmental impacts resulting during construction and from long-term impacts resulting from the new building(s),” Kellan continued.

He said staff has been advised that the proposed development site – between Skyway Street and the airport apron – is likely eligible to be Categorically Excluded (Cat-Ex) from having to complete a full environmental impact study.

In order to qualify for the Cat-Ex status, a preliminary study and resulting application paperwork needs to be submitted to the FAA and MDOT-Aero, Kellan noted. Therefore, DLZ has been asked to provide a proposal for compiling the necessary information to satisfy this application process.

The process is expected to take about three months for completion, and DLZ is proposing a fee of $12,500, Kellan stated.

OWAA authorized amending the existing contract with DLZ, to have the environmental impact information assembled and to make an application for Cat-Ex status for the envisioned future hangar development site.

In other matters, Kellan also provided the following updates:

• The Mission Drive resurfacing work is now complete, making for much smoother travel when driving along the route to and from the hangar complex.

• The Iosco Apron resurfacing project is currently being worked up by Mead & Hunt, with plans of implementing the project next year. OWAA approved spending $175,000 for the engineering workup, but Kellan said staff is pursuing a grant to, hopefully, get at least a significant portion of this  reimbursed.

• The workup is also underway for the Taxiway E resurfacing project, which is being funded with grant money. “And we should be in good shape for implementing that next summer, as well. We’ll be bidding that out through the winter months,” Kellan said.

• The live auction conducted at OWA on Aug. 31 featured surplus items and equipment from OWAA, the Oscoda Township Police Department, Sage International Ordnance and Kalitta Air. Gross sales amounted to $99,780, with commissions and expenses coming to $11,453, for a net revenue of $88,327.

“The main thing I want to let you know is, [OWA Assistant Manager Jack Brown] did a bang up job pulling this all together,” Kellan shared. “And it was a very successful auction. I think we had over 200 bidders out there registered.”