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Airport woes will cost taxpayers
A machine grinds up the asphalt on the taxiway at the airport. - photo by Photo by John Deike
Overlooked construction errors have disrupted the building of the Midcoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield, and area taxpayers may have to shoulder the blunder.
About a year ago, the Liberty County Commission approved a bid from Douglas Asphalt to pave the taxiways, runway and apron of the rebuilt airport, County Administrator Joey brown said.
However, Douglas was recently removed from the project when inspectors discovered twigs, hay and other foreign objects in the badly contaminated asphalt, Liberty County Development Authority CEO Ron Tolley said.
Fort Stewart spokesman Kevin Larson stood on the contaminated site, and physically picked out some of the organic matter with his hands.
“If this piece of hay were to get sucked in a jet turbine or airplane propeller, it could easily down the plane and destroy the engines,” he said.
In light of this major construction mismanagement, two and a half inches of tainted asphalt is being stripped from the taxiway, and three and a half inches of fresh asphalt will be laid to repave it, Ellis Wood of Ellis Wood Construction said.
This reconstruction effort will cost $3.1 million, and the county, city of Hinesville and LCDA will each have to cover one-third of the bill, Brown said.
To avoid paying the entire cost, the county is trying to settle with Douglas’ surety, Arch Insurance, to recoup as much money as possible, he added.
When asked about the unusual procedure of removing 2.5 inches of contaminated asphalt and replacing it with 3.5 inches, Brown said he was unable to explain because of the delicate negotiations under way with Arch and the possibility of litigation.
“The county will most likely recover about $2 million and change from the settlement, and the three partners will be on the hook to pay the remaining $1 million,” Chief Financial Officer Kim McGlothlin said, referring to the airport authority, which has a joint use agreement with the U.S. Army.
In essence, the county, the LCDA and Hinesville may have to invest another $300,000 each in taxpayer money to cover the rest of Wood’s construction costs, she said.
There were at least three inspectors on hand: one from Douglas Asphalt, one from the county and one from Wilbur Smith Associates who were supposed to be inspecting the taxiway as Douglas built it, she added.
Wilbur Smith Associates is a worldwide, employee-owned firm of engineers and planners performing a wide range of transportation and infrastructure tasks. Wilbur Smith had already done consulting for the county when it was selected to work on the joint airport plan, Brown said.
Wilbur Smith did Georgia’s state aviation transportation plan and was recently selected to do the Douglas County Comprehensive Transportation Plan, he said.

Joe Parker Jr. contributed reporting to this story.
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