$10M in improvements coming to airport

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An employee at the Indianapolis Regional Airport in Hancock County helps park a jet on Oct. 5, 2020.

Daily Reporter file photo

HANCOCK COUNTY – Improvements anticipated to cost nearly $10 million are coming to the Indianapolis Regional Airport.

The upgrades are slated for surfaces and hangars at the facility, located east of Mt. Comfort Road between county roads 300N and 500N in Hancock County.

The Indianapolis Airport Authority last month approved an award of contract to Milestone Contractors in a not-to-exceed amount of nearly $5.5 million plus a 10% construction reserve of nearly $550,000, for a total of over $6 million. With inspection and materials testing, the total anticipated project cost is over $7 million.

An airport authority board memo notes that the east and west aprons and the adjoining taxilane at the airport were constructed over 40 years ago and have reached the end of their useful life.

Tony McMichael, director of airside development for the airport authority, said the project will include reconstructing the taxilane that allows aircraft to maneuver between two aircraft parking areas known as aprons and the airport’s runway environment. The project will also entail rehabilitating a taxiway to the west of the airport’s west apron that leads to the runway.

Additionally, the west apron will receive an overlay of asphalt. McMichael said that will be particularly beneficial for an airshow coming to the airport this October.

The project will include a new access road as well. It will span from Airport Boulevard, which leads to the airport from Mt. Comfort Road, to the taxiway that will be rehabilitated. McMichael said the road will not only serve as a construction entrance for the project, but facilitate additional future development too.

“What we try to do anytime we do project development is we want to make sure that we’re looking holistically at what may be coming down the road,” he said. “And if we have an opportunity to improve things to help facilitate that development, then we do it.”

Construction is anticipated to start in the beginning of April and the goal is to complete by the end of September, McMichael said.

He added the work will be phased in a way that shouldn’t be intrusive to those using the airport.

“With this project we’re confident that we will not be creating an environment that will have an adverse impact on any tenants,” he said.

Milestone Contractors submitted the only bid for the project. Jarod Klaas, senior director of planning and development for the airport authority, said at the February board meeting that it’s currently a very busy time for contractors and difficult to get multiple bids.

“Based on the analysis that the design engineers did, we’re confident that we did get reasonable pricing from Milestone on this,” Klaas said.

One of the subcontractors on the project is Protection Plus, a security company that paid $370,000 in back wages and damages to over 200 workers last year after a U.S. Labor Department Investigation. Klaas said the airport authority did not choose the company, but that Milestone Contractors did.

The award of contract on the surface improvements follows the airport authority’s award of contract late last year for hangar door repair at the regional airport to Evans Development Company. That contract has a not-to-exceed amount of over $2.4 million, plus a 10% construction reserve for a total of over $2.6 million. With other expenses, the total anticipated project cost is over $2.8 million.

An airport authority board memo notes that the airport has several aircraft storage buildings with hangar doors that are large and require a system of motors, gearboxes, belts, chains, pulleys and cables to operate the hangar doors safely. Due to their age, the memo continues, some of the mechanisms in three of the hangars must be repaired or replaced.

Plans for the repairs come at a time when commercial service airports “support a broad range of business, recreation, emergency, public safety, and agricultural activity, among many other types of operations,” according to a 2022 Indiana State Aviation Economic Impact Study conducted by the Indiana Department of Transportation Office of Aviation. The study reports that in 2019 the number of jobs employed by businesses directly or indirectly linked to activities and operations at Indianapolis Regional Airport was 268, including full-time, part-time and seasonal employees. Labor income totaled over $12.6 million and its gross domestic product was nearly $21.5 million. The airport’s output, or total gross spending by businesses, organizations and individuals involved in activities linked to operations and actions at the airport, was nearly $40.7 million.