The Crossville City Council cancelled its contract for striping and resealing at Crossville Memorial Airport citing problems with the contractor.
During a Dec. 13 special-called meeting, City Attorney Will Ridley said the matter had been the topic of recent closed sessions with the council and followed consultation with Atkins Engineering, the company overseeing the project for the city.
“They have found that Cantrell Construction Co. is in default with the contract specifications,” Ridley said.
National American Insurance Co., the company’s insurance company, has also inspected Cantrell’s work and agreed there is reason to cancel the contract, Ridley said.
“My recommendation to you, based upon the recommendation of Atkins Engineering and National American Insurance Co., is to terminate the contract with Cantrell Construction because of their default,” Ridley said.
Councilman J.H. Graham III moved to terminate the contract, supported by Councilman Art Gernt and the motion was unanimously approved.
The city has about 86,000 square feet of pavement marking at the airport. The city approved Cantrell Construction Co. $608,130 bid for the project, which was lower than the engineer’s estimate. At the time, Atkins Engineering recommended the city award Cantrell the project, citing the company’s experience with this type project and working in an airport environment. The project is being completed with a Tennessee Department of Transportation Aeronautics grant which is providing 95 percent of the cost. The city is responsible for the remaining $33,528.
City police were called to the airport Oct. 13 after a vehicle was reported in the weeds at the end of the runway. According to the report, Ptl. Joel Stevens responded and found a 2005 Nissan 350Z stuck in the mud with both airbags deployed. According to the matter-of-record report, Stevens said he could see skid marks for about 50 yards and where the vehicle went airborne and then impacted the ground multiple times before coming to a rest in the mud.
Stevens spoke with city engineer Kevin Oakes, who told the officer he saw the vehicle driving at a high rate of speed paralleling a B-25 bomber as it was taking off, with a vehicle occupant filming it.
The vehicle belonged to James Cantrell, owner of Cantrell Construction. As Stevens checked on the vehicle, a work truck pulled up and the driver told him Cantrell had left to go to another airport.
Cantrell later contacted Stevens and told him he did not want an accident report for his vehicle. He had called a local towing company to remove it from the airport property.
City police contacted the Federal Aviation Administration, which said Cantrell had not violated any rules.
Ridley said the city would have to rebid the striping and sealing contract, at a cost of $20,637. Graham moved to rebid the project and approve a contract amendment to authorize Atkins Engineering to administer the bid process, supported by Gernt.
Ridley said National American Insurance had offered to settle with the city, but he recommended the city take no action on the offer at this time.
“My recommendation … is that we let them know we’re going to wait until we have determined what the cost to complete the project will be based on the new bid,” Ridley said.
The airport has a 5,400-foot runway, but that does limit the type of aircraft that can use the facility.
But extending the runway to 6,000 feet or longer would be an expensive proposition, city engineer Tim Begley told the Crossville City Council during a Dec. 17 retreat.
“We’re looking at over a $20-million project,” Begley said.
Adam Strachn, CEO of the Cosby Harrison Co., said expanding the runway would allow larger planes to land safely in Crossville.
“If you were able to extend it to 6,000 or 6,500, now you’re in just about every single type of aircraft that’s available … specifically jets that are capable of flying transcontinental nonstop,” he told the council. “It would be a major boon to the local economy if you also tie in to trying to bring business in, especially bigger business.”
The Upper Cumberland Regional Airport in Sparta has a 6,700-foot runway, and the Warren County Memorial Airport in McMinnville offers a 6,400-foot runway.
The topography of the property beyond the airport also poses a problem. Graham said a portion of Old Hwy. 70 might need to be condemned or a tunnel built under the extended runway to the west to retain access to homes and property in that area. Begley said his estimate didn’t include fill for the property or a tunnel, which would increase the cost.
Graham said, “Some council — maybe not this council — but some council is going to have to take this on. This community, someday, will be in a situation where it is absolutely mandatory that we have a 7,000-foot runway.
The council also discussed if the long-retired Crossville Airport Committee should be revived.
City Manager Greg Wood told the council there had been some “fairly significant” recent complaints from some pilots regarding service and operations.
He said trash had been observed on the runway and staff did not regularly complete daily foreign-object checks.
Wood said at least one of the individuals complaining, however, wants to take over as airport manager.
“I think you need to understand that in that discussion,” he said.
Crossville Aero has been the fixed base operator for the airport since 2007. Chris Bennett had served as airport manager but has since taken a position at Stone Memorial High School teaching aviation.
Wood said, “When Chris was there, things were not perfect, but the folks running it for him don’t have the ownership he had.”
The city had an airport committee in the past but there had been questions about the role of that committee — whether it was a management or advisory panel. However, Wood said the committee could bring value to the airport, especially in planning and executing events and promoting the community.
“It just depends on how you make it up,” Wood said.
Graham said the airport is one of the community’s greatest assets.
“We shall take care of the airport,” he said. “If it means the airport committee be re-instituted as an advisory board, that would be very interesting to me.”
Julie-Christie Neal, owner of U.S. Exporters, LLC, in Crossville, said she was very pleased with the service she received at Crosvville Memorial Airport. In fact, her business intends to build a new hangar and locate four additional aircraft in Crossville next year.
“One of the reason the people I represent are building their hangar there and not Sparta, which has a considerably longer and wider runway, is simply because of the service that Chris has provided for the aircraft they have there now,” she said.
Strachn, speaking as a pilot, said he’d spoke with Bennett on several occasions about how the airport can be an economic driver for the community, with possibilities such as establishment of a flight school to help supply the aviation industry with well-trained pilots.
The airport remains popular, he said, with a waitlist for hangar space.
Graham recommended goals and objectives be developed for the formation of a new airport committee for future discussion.
During the Jan. 3 work session, Wood said a survey had been developed to gather input from all airport users. That survey asks about 20 questions, with a space for comments. It’s available through the city’s website, www.crossvilletn.gov.
The city is currently working to identify obstructions in the flight path of the airport and form a plan to mitigate those hazards as part of maintaining its license from the FAA.
The council approved a tree survey in September that Begley expects to be complete next month.
Begley said the city had looked at a project to sell some of the airport property not in use to adjoining property owners, some of whom had “encroached” on the city’s property, Begley said. That project is on hold, however, pending completion of an updated airport layout plan expected in a couple of years.