Tuesday, January 24, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Air base rebuilds

Col. Mike Minihan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, will depart next Tuesday for Andrews Air Force Base, where he will oversee the presidential and VIP fleet of jets. He will leave his successor, Col. Brian Robinson, an air base that ranks with the best in the world.

The tempo may slow down at times, but the mission continues. Even when LRAFB took a terrible hit during last spring’s tornado, the air base continued to train and make deliveries around the world.

The base has started to rebuild some of the worst-damaged structures with a $16 million contract issued recently to AECOM, the giant architecture and engineering firm based in Los Angeles.

The tornado caused about $85 million in damage to about 60 buildings, five planes and other infrastructure on base.

Two of the C-130s that were hit will never fly again, but those two were scheduled to retire last year anyway. Two others have been fixed and another one is undergoing repairs.

AECOM will design and repair three hangars, the fire station, a training building and two other structures. The roof and all the doors at the fire station have to be replaced.

Two buildings should be finished in February. Construction on two others will start next month. Five others are in the design phase. The company plans to be complete repairs on all seven buildings by March 2013.

To complete the projects, AECOM is getting help from CDI Contractors, a Little Rock construction company; HDMS Architects and Interior Designers of North Little Rock, and Tecta America, a Texas-based roofing company. They could hire several hundred workers before the first phase of the repairs are done.

Hunt Building Services, which owns base housing, has rebuilt much of the damaged homes after several were badly damaged in the tornado. The company demolished 19 homes and is rebuilding them. Hunt has finished work on all but 34 houses.

Much work remains to be done and it could take several years before all rebuilding contracts are issued and completed. Thanks go out to Col. Minihan for making sure that adequate funds became available before taking on his new assignment at Andrews AFB.