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Terminal expansion plan recommended

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Airport Advisory Commission members have recommended a terminal expansion concept so that consultants can request funding to pay for architectural and engineering design. Mayor Dennis Kintigh, at head of table, chairs the city commission. Dane Marley, to Kintigh’s left, and Bud Kunkle are commission members. City Councilor Judy Stubbs chairs the council’s Legal Committee, which often considers the recommendations made by the commission prior to final votes by the Roswell City Council. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Airport Advisory Commission prefers ‘hybrid’ option

A concept for a renovated airport terminal has been recommended by a city commission, which also suggested repairing rather than demolishing an older structure damaged during a March windstorm.

The city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission, chaired by Mayor Dennis Kintigh, voted to recommend allowing consultants to work with a “middle option” plan for an estimated $26.9 million terminal renovation as they prepare funding requests to pay for more in-depth engineering plans and cost estimates.

The group also voted during its Thursday meeting to repair a damaged World War II-era building, contingent on insurance funding. That matter will now head to the Roswell City Council and its committees for a final decision.

‘Hybrid’ option selected for now

Adam Ambro of Gensler, a design and architectural firm, made an updated presentation to the commission regarding concepts for the airport terminal at the Roswell International Air Center.

“We have already planned it, but there are still a lot deeper and different conversations that need to take place,” said Ambro. “That’s part of what we wanted to do today, is share the different alternatives we have developed and share some of the pros and cons of each.”

Funded by a New Mexico Department of Transportation grant, the terminal expansion study is not intended to develop final architectural designs, but rather provide concepts about how best to resolve crowded conditions for some airport functions and accommodate future growth in commercial airline service, passengers and vehicle traffic.

The city of Roswell has two American Airline flight operations to Phoenix and Dallas, but it has begun efforts to attract another airline for service to a third city, with Denver seen as a likely destination at this point. The existing terminal could not accommodate such growth, Air Center employees have said.

Ambro discussed three concepts, with the commission deciding after a lengthy discussion to allow Armstrong Consultants Inc., the city’s airport planning consultants, to work with option three as the consulants begin drafting funding requests to pay for architectural and engineering design. In making its recommendation, the commission was advised by Armstrong Consultants that funding agencies likely will allow the city to amend its plans if needs or circumstances change.

The “hybrid” option is a middle option between a more simple renovation estimated at $22.99 million that would not solve all known overcrowding issues and a more extensive renovation estimated at $29.78 million that would require significant inconveniences during construction.

Option Three entails expansion of the two existing wings of the terminal to provide more space for rental cars in one wing and the ticketing and baggage check-in functions in another. But it also includes a new addition to the south of the existing building to be built on a small portion of the tarmac. Ambros said that the addition would allow for an improved passenger experience by creating space for additional gates, a larger passenger lounge and expanded security-check areas. A secure courtyard also would be a possibility under this option.

The commission also debated but ultimately decided against recommending the construction of an entirely new terminal building at this point in the discussion process. Commission members and consultants concluded that the existing structure is still sound, although in need of mechanical and electrical upgrades; that federal or state funding for a portion of the project is more likely for a renovation than a new structure; and that a new building could necessitate other work, including demolition of other buildings and relocation of parking areas.

Gensler also presented a couple of options for improving parking at the terminal. Two major concepts of the plans were to create alternative traffic paths so that not all vehicles have to travel in front of the terminal entrance and to move long-term parking at least 300 feet from the terminal.

According to commission members and Armstrong Consulting staff, the funding for design might come from a Federal Aviation Administration Municipal Airport Program grant. But the city also will need additional funding mechanisms for construction, including possibly issuing bonds to be repaid by increased lodgers taxes or airport-related fees.

Repair recommendation

The commission decided to recommend to the Roswell City Council repairing Building 72, a 22,000-square-foot warehouse leased by an airport tenant that was damaged during the high winds and gusts that occurred in the area March 13.

City of Roswell Project Manager Kevin Dillon said that preliminary discussions with an insurance company indicate that the company probably will pay $450,000 to repair the roof. The city would then contribute $150,000 to upgrade and repair exterior doors and replace the existing lighting with more energy-efficient LED lighting.

He said demolition of the building, constructed in 1942 and containing encased asbestos, is estimated at $409,765.

Commissioners voted to recommend renovation to the City Council, provided that the insurance company is willing to pay for the roof repairs.

Other items

The group also discussed the recent military pilot training that occurred at the Air Center and the storing of grounded Boeing aircraft at the airfield.

• Air Center Director Scott Stark said that the Navy Training Air Wing 4, part of the Chief of Naval Air Training Command based in Corpus Christi, Texas, was pleased with its experience at the Air Center. The group was in Roswell from late January until about April 10 to provide entry training for aviators from various military branches. Stark said that the group initially planned to have 25 airplanes on site and conduct 4,000 flight hours of training but decided as training progressed to bring an additional 10 planes, and were able to do more than 7,000 flight hours of training. He said the command expressed being happy about many plans to return next year if its budget allows.

• A maintenance and repair operator at the airport, AerSale, is storing four Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for American Airlines, with the possibility of additional planes arriving soon. The 737 MAX was ordered grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration on March 13, with the order remaining in effect until concerns about its computerized navigation system are addressed. Initial investigations have indicated that the software system and the lack of adequate pilot training concerning it could have resulted in two overseas airplane crashes. According to American Airlines statements, the airline has 24 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet and has decided to ground them until Aug. 19, which has led to the cancellation of 115 of its daily flights. Roswell’s air service is not impacted by that decision. The airline has announced that it expects the FAA to remove the grounding order before August, but that the decision was made to keep their aircraft out of service until mid-August so that it could best plan for summer air traffic.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.