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Sat, Jan 21, 2006

FAA To Contribute Funds To New Myrtle Beach Terminal

Project Hit By Delays, Cost Overruns

The FAA has agreed to contribute $43 million towards building a new terminal at Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) -- which should go a long way to reducing the sizable deficit in funds the project has accumulated in the past year.

The funds, which still have to be approved by Congress, would reduce the amount of funding still needed to cover the $228.8 million project to $15 million, according to current cost estimates provided by Horry County to the Myrtle Beach Sun Times.

"I am completely confident that within three years we will be flying out of that new terminal," County Council Chairwoman Liz Gilland told the newspaper.

Gilland traveled to Washington, DC last week to discuss the funding plan with US Senators. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, and US Rep. Henry Brown. Officials are hoping the state will agree to fund the remaining $15 million once the FAA grant is approved. 

"This is a big first step in making the new airport a reality," DeMint said in a prepared statement. "Together with over $80 million approved for I-73, the terminal will be another critical piece of the region's plan to diversify its economy and create jobs of the future."

Myrtle Beach is served by several airlines, including Delta, AirTran, US Airways, Spirit, and Northwest.

The new terminal -- already one of the costliest projects in the county -- has been beset by cost overruns and delays. The project is currently on hold, after the city recently fired its original architectural firm, HNTB Architecture Inc. of Washington, DC, following an ongoing dispute over how much the contractor was owed.

Still, the county and city are hopeful the project is now within reach. The county is currently appraising airport property that could be sold to raise cash, as well as possible funding available from the TSA to cover expected security needs.

Should the state not step up, the county could borrow the money -- Horry County already plans to bond $70 million for the terminal, and could bond the additional funds as well.

It is unclear, however, if the city council would want to put the city on the hook for some much... especially as costs could swell even more in the future.

The terminal project's lead contractor, Skanska USA, is expected to prepare a guaranteed price for the county by midyear -- meaning if costs exceeded that total, the county wouldn't be on the hook.

But that was supposed to be done about a year ago, according to the council.

"We need to continue to lock down the cost figures," County Councilman Howard Barnard said. "We have a great estimate, but we need to get that more firm."

FMI: www.horrycounty.org/depts/airports/index.asp

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