Payson got some bad news with good implications last week.
The bad news: Bids to make runway improvements at the Payson Airport came in way higher than expected.
The good news: The Federal Aviation Administration has promised to pick up the tab if the town puts off the $363,000 project until spring.
And the good news has an encouraging footnote: The higher than expected bids suggest the construction industry has begun to recover after a long limbo.
Oh — but then this footnote to the bad news column: No construction jobs for Payson during one more winter of discontent.
The FAA offered the town a $363,500 grant to fund the improvements, with a modest 2.5 percent match from Payson.
The project will install an asphalt blast pad at each end of the runway and cover improved runway and taxiway signage.
The improvements are part of a $10 million airport master plan, to make safety improvements, add money-making facilities to support airport operations and scale up landings and takeoffs from 40,000 now to a projected 66,000 annually.
The grant will cover almost the entire cost of the project, including buying land, design fees and construction.
The town estimated that the actual construction will cost $167,000. The FAA approved that amount and the town sought bids from contractors.
However, the bids came in far above the estimates. That represents a sharp change from the handful of other projects put out to bid in the past two years. In several other cases, bids came in well below estimates, which town officials cited as a measure of the desperation of many construction firms to find work.
However, the lowest of three bids submitted for the airport work came in $77,327 higher than expected — or about 46 percent above the estimate.
The bids submitted included:
• $244,327 from Show Low Construction
• $254,627 from Spire Construction
• $292,056 from J. Banicki Construction
Town Engineer LaRon Garrett said that the FAA indicated it would probably have more money in the spring and could give the town an additional grant to cover a higher bid cost, if the town could put the construction work off until then.
Garrett said the contractor probably couldn’t do a lot of the work during the winter anyway, when temperatures often preclude pouring cement or asphalt. The construction work will take about a month and will result in the temporary shortening of the runway to about 4,500 feet and closure of the airport for at least two days during construction.
The council unanimously approved Garrett’s recommendation. The town will now wait several months and then put the project out to bid again, to start in the spring.