WatchSonoma Watch

County set to award $23 million contract for airport expansion


A Berkeley-based firm that led the Highway 101 widening work from Santa Rosa to Windsor is set to be awarded a $22.7 million contract to extend runways and make other upgrades at the Sonoma County airport.

O.C. Jones and Sons was the overall low bidder among six companies competing for the long-planned work at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport. The Board of Supervisors is set to approve a contract with the firm Tuesday.

The tower at the Sonoma County airport. (PD File)

The tower at the Sonoma County airport. (PD File)

The $53.8 million project will lengthen runways and is intended to attract more flights to the airport. That would help boost tourism and business travel to a transportation hub seen as an economic engine for the area.

The runway work has been held up for about a year in a federal approval process that officials hope will wrap up in July. That green light, and sign off by state and federal regulators, would clear the way for construction to start in mid-August, said Jon Stout, the airport manager.

“It’s exciting to be here discussing real, physical work instead of the paper process,” Stout said.

The bid by O.C. Jones was $4.5 million above a cost estimate prepared by an engineering firm the county hired to design the runway project.

The 22 percent discrepancy, which the county described as significant, was driven by strict environmental constraints on the work, costs for special equipment and materials and a tight timeline with daily and seasonal construction windows, the county reported.

Funding from the Federal Aviation Administration is set to cover 90 percent of the cost. The county would cover the remainder, using a $5 million Caltrans loan to be repaid through passenger facility charges on airline tickets. The contract award is contingent on the disbursement of federal money for the project.

O.C. Jones was the lead contractor on the $82 million project that added a third lane to both directions of Highway 101 between Santa Rosa and Windsor. The work was completed in 2010.

In 2011, following a combined state-county investigation of its work, the firm agreed to pay $315,000 to settle alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. Authorities said on multiple occasions in 2009 that that the contractor failed to prevent storm water runoff into several creeks along the freeway.

The violations included failure to cease work during forecasted periods of rain and the improper placement of straw wattles, drainage bags and other devices intended to limit discharges and erosion.

Through a spokeswoman, officials with O.C. Jones declined to comment on the settlement Friday, saying it was confidential.

“This is an important project for O.C. Jones & Sons and (Sonoma) County,” Jennifer Sebay, the O.C. Jones spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement about the runway extension. “We highly value the strong working relationship that we have with Sonoma County, and look forward to building another successful project in Sonoma County.”

The company specializes in large civic, commercial and residential projects, including airports, roadways and stadiums.

Of the 13 subcontractors identified in its bid, three are local companies: Cotati-based Neary Landscape, Healdsburg-based Terracon Pipeline and Santa Rosa-based Devincenzi Concrete Construction. They will be responsible for $2.6 million of the work.

The project, approved in January 2012, calls for lengthening the main runway by 885 feet to 6,000 feet and adding 200 feet to the second runway. The extensions will transform the intersection of the two runways from a “V”, connected at the north end, to a modified “X” pattern, a formation with separate endpoints that the FAA sees as a safety improvement.

The project also includes lighting, taxiway and service-road upgrades.

The work was originally set to begin last year and wrap up in November this year. The new timeline, twice revised, calls for completion of the work by October 2014.

The five other bidders included, from lowest to highest bid: Granite Construction, Ghilotti Construction, DeSilva Gates Construction, Ghilotti Brothers, and Disney Construction.

More than $20 million of the project cost consists of environmental offsets for rare plant and wildlife species, including Burke’s goldfields, a small wetland flower, and the California tiger salamander.

The long-term airport expansion plan, pegged at $84 million, calls for a new passenger terminal, control tower, air cargo facility and other improvements. The timing of those upgrades depends on attracting more airlines to the county-owned airport.

(You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or brett.wilkison@pressdemocrat.com.)

4 Responses to “County set to award $23 million contract for airport expansion”

  1. Larry Watkins says:

    An objective observer from another place would look at the loonies spending $20 million dollars on weed, insect and lizard “off sets” and worry about the sanity of the decision makers.

    We should be worried too. And we should be doing something about it like getting these crazy laws changed.

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  2. Dave Madigan says:

    I see no mention of salamander tunnels under the runways! Is this a multi-million dollar oversight?

    Let’s not forget that the City of Santa Rosa spent something like $750K on salamander tunnels under a street in southwest SR.

    As I recall, the City salamander expert said that even though not a single salamander had been seen, the City had to assume they are there.

    Where is the ACLU on this? Lawsuits should be filed! Protesters should protest!

    By the way, does anyone have a good recipe for salamander soup? I hear that it tastes like spotted owl…

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  3. Anne V. says:

    Let us hope that the sweet “contract” being awarded by Sonoma County has provisions in it to guarantee those jobs go to Sonoma County workers!!! Let us also hope that those workers will be LEGAL WORKERS, and not more illegal/cheap labor so that OC Jones makes a great profit off of cheap labor, paid by our taxpayers!

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  4. Steveguy says:

    Wait ! Where is this money going ? Really !
    “More than $20 million of the project cost consists of environmental offsets for rare plant and wildlife species, including Burke’s goldfields, a small wetland flower, and the California tiger salamander.

    Who what when where and why PD. please.

    This reeks of corruption.

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