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Airport to receive $6.2 million overhaul

A monumental resurfacing project will soon be underway at Washington-Warren Field Airport. The project, which weighs in at $6.2 million, will involve resurfacing the airport’s primary runway, three taxiways and the tarmac at the terminal.

The project’s funding comes by way of a federal grant for $2.6 million and state grant funding to the tune of $2.9 million. Both grants required a 10% local match, which came to a total of $623,125 for the city. The Washington City Council approved the match during its meeting Monday, transferring the amount from the city’s fund balance.

For Washington-Warren Manager Earl Malpass, the improvements are a long time coming, but worth the wait. An attempt to bid out the resurfacing two years ago saw bids coming in around $2 million over what the city had budgeted for the project. Because the city decided to hold off on the project, the state and federal grant funding will save the city a considerable amount of money.

“The airport is currently listed around fourth-worst condition in the state as far as runways, the taxiways and the apron,” Malpass said. “The concrete has been sprawling; it’s old and the expansion and contraction over the years has really had its effect on the infrastructure there. So it’s bringing it from the fourth-worst in the state to almost brand new. That’s going to give confidence to future business and jets coming into the airport knowing their aircraft won’t be damaged by loose debris.”

“It’s a great win for the city with the $5.6 million in grant funding,” added Washington City Manager Jonathan Russell. “It was a 90/10 match requirement, so that’s a great way to leverage the funds we have to completely resurface the airport, and that will improve the type of services we provide out there.”

Initial work is slated to begin this fall, with the bulk of resurfacing starting in the spring of 2020. The work will be completed by S.T. Wooten Company, whose bid came in at $5,901,868, the lowest of three considered. Bids from Trader Construction Company and Barnhill Contacting Company came in at $6,771,939 and $8,252,612, respectively. Talbert and Bright, Inc. is overseeing the administration of the project.

“In my opinion, we can have a well-trained, courteous staff and competitive pricing in our services,” Malpass said. “But if we don’t have the backing of the city council, we’re not going to be able to make these kinds of improvements, so I appreciate their support.”

In the long run, Malpass says he hopes the improvement will make the airport a more attractive place to land for aviators. After decades of the airport running a deficit, he sees the improvements as an opportunity to attract more business, with the ultimate goal of making the airport self-sustaining and perhaps even a source of revenue for the city.

“My mantra is that I want everybody to know that Washington-Warren Airport is open for business,” Malpass said. “We’re doing our best to be a beacon of customer service to the aviation community and a show window for Beaufort County.”