The terminal building at the city’s municipal airport will get a new roof, and it will be a race against the clock to complete the work before winter sets in.
In separate meetings on Thursday and Wednesday, the El Dorado City Council and El Dorado Works Board approved a maximum amount of $64,600 from the city’s 1 cent, economic development sales tax to replace the roof on the terminal building at South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field.
The amount will provide a pro rata match for a grant that was approved earlier this week by the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics.
The El Dorado Works Board held a special meeting Wednesday to address the funding request, and the council followed up with final approval on Thursday.
Mickey Murfee, chairman of the El Dorado Airport Commission, presented the funding request to the EWB on Wednesday.
Commissioner Aubra Anthony and airport manager Johnathan Estes also attended the meeting.
Murfee explained to board members that the deteriorating roof grew worse as a debate raged in recent years about whether to restore the post-World War II era airport terminal or tear it down and build anew.
The airport commission agreed in 2015 to demolish the terminal and construct a new one after reviewing comprehensive plans and a comparative analysis that were drafted by CADM Architecture, Inc.
In July 2015, Murfee cast the lone no vote on a motion to build a new terminal, and the process to move forward with new construction was halted after state and federal historical preservation groups got involved in the matter.
Murfee said Wednesday that since federal funds have previously been used for improvements to the existing terminal, federal laws prohibit the razing of the building without a mitigation plan that would include preserving and maintaining the terminal, which was built in 1947, if a new one is built.
Earlier this year, CADM returned with an updated master plan for rehabilitation and a preliminary budget estimate of $2.1 million.
Airport commissioners said they would have to research several possible funding sources to raise the money for the rehab job.
Meanwhile, water continued to infiltrate the roof and terminal building, leading to further deterioration and a buildup of odor and moisture inside the terminal.
Commissioners subsequently agreed that roof needed immediate attention and would not last through another winter.
For several months, the commission has worked to find the money to cover the roof project.
Their efforts culminated this week with the decision of the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics and approval from the EWB and city council for a piece of the El Dorado Works tax.
Mayor Frank Hash noted that repairs for airport terminals are not on the list of priorities for grant consideration by the ADA.
Improvements to runways, ramps and taxiways are deemed as more pressing projects by state and federal aviation officials, Hash said.
Murfee said state and federal historic preservationists, the ADA and the Federal Aviation Administration have expressed their approval of preserving the terminal, which is one of two original airport terminals in the state, Hash said.
Murfee said the other terminal is in Hot Springs.
“But they’ve done so much to it, that it’s hard to find the original building underneath it,” he said.
The terminal at SARA is also unique in that it was specially designed by a local architect, the late John Abbott, the founder of what is now CADM.
“With each new rain, we get a new puddle of plaster and pieces falling down. We’ve needed a new roof out there for years,” Murfee said.
El Dorado Roofing Company, LLC, was awarded the bid for the roofing project, but the company was holding off on starting the job until the city learned if the ADA would approve the grant, which had initially been declined.
Hash and Murfee said previously that had the project begun prior to the ADA decision, the city would have been rendered ineligible for the grant.
Murfee said El Dorado Roofing secured the necessary materials and was awaiting the go-ahead from the city.
The total cost for the project is $129,200 — $114,200 for the work; $15,000 for architectural and engineering services; and a $25,000 contingency.
“What’s the risk if they get in there and find it’s going to be more than $129,000?” EWB member Greg Downum asked.
“We’ll have to find some more money. We may be coming back,” Murfee said.
EWB member Craig Mobley asked a similar question.
“Is the grant half of the total cost or half of what’s used?” Mobley said, homing in on the $25,000 contingency.
“We expect to use it because Lord only knows what’s under that stuff,” Murfee said.
Robert Reynolds, EWB chairman, said the board could approve a match up to $64,200.
Murfee said the roof work is part of the master renovation plan, and once the work is completed, the airport commission will set about finding money to cover the rest of the master plan.
“We won’t be spending money on the roof twice,” he said, adding that air conditioning units will be removed from the roof during the roof repairs.
The units will be returned to the roof and will be permanently relocated later when the next phase of the renovation work starts, Murfee said.
Hash reiterated those points during the city council meeting on Thursday.
“You can consider this phase one of the master plan. We won’t be losing that, whether or not we find the money to cover the other phase of the renovation,” Hash said. “We have to keep that terminal weather-tight and presentable.”
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at email@example.com.