Bids on Hammond airport tower project are over budget

Construction bids for Hammond Northshore Regional Airport’s control tower project came in more than $500,000 over budget, giving officials just 30 days either to come up with the additional funding or go back to the drawing board on the design.

Officials budgeted more than $1.2 million for the construction of an air traffic control tower at the general aviation airport east of Hammond, but the lowest of three base bids submitted Thursday came in at $1.78 million, Mayor Mayson Foster said.

“We had expected the bids to be slightly over budget, maybe around $1.3 million, but we were also hoping, because some bids on other projects we’ve been working on had come in low, that these could possibly even be under budget,” Foster said Friday. “When that low bid of $1.777 million came in, it was really disheartening.”

The city already has invested about $100,000 in planning and preliminary engineering for the tower. Officials also have secured $1.5 million for the project through capital outlay and the Federal Aviation Administration, but that money must cover construction as well as soft costs such as engineering and site work, he said.

If another $500,000 cannot be found within 30 days — perhaps through the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s Aviation Division or Delta Regional Authority — the city will have no choice but to reject the bids and start reworking the design to bring down costs, Foster said.

Airport Director Jason Ball said the tower is needed both to increase safety at the airfield and to entice company executives, whose insurance policies often require flying into airports equipped with control towers.