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Airport taxiway improvement moves forward

A Maule single-engine back-country plane at the Ashland Airport. Submitted photo

Ashland City Council approved the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program for the Ashland Municipal Airport April 20, paving the way for improvements to the airport’s taxiway.

DBE programs “help ensure there is a level playing field for socially and economically disadvantaged firms to compete for airport contracting and concession opportunities,” according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In 2019, the City Council approved a capital improvements program that included a parallel taxiway rehabilitation project.

Parts of the taxiway — parallel to the runway — have failed, said city engineering project manager Chance Metcalf. This project is the next step in the five-year Oregon Department of Aviation pavement maintenance program.

Under FAA guidance, the city was required to develop a DBE program to obtain federal grant funding for the first engineering phase of the project, according to council documents. A final professional service consultant contract will come in front of the council May 4 for consideration, according to Metcalf.

“In administering its DBE program, the city of Ashland will not, directly or through contractual or other arrangements, use criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the DBE program with respect to individuals of a particular race, color, sex or national origin,” according to a city policy statement.

Per policy, the city must review payments to subcontractors and monitor work sites to ensure compliance with DBE program requirements. Over a three-year period, any contract amount that exceeds $250,000 in a fiscal year must be part of a DBE goal.

The taxiway is considered to be in satisfactory to poor condition, according to a 2016 pavement maintenance report. Improvement activities will include new surfacing and subsurface drainage, taxiway edge lights and signs. The project is slated to be paid for with 90% grant funding from the FAA and 10% from the city’s airport fund, including roughly 1% in revenue from hangar leases and rentals.

Cost for phase one engineering is estimated at $263,000, followed by nearly $2.6 million for phase two construction, pending revised engineering estimates. Construction is slated to begin in spring 2022, Metcalf said.

A portion of contracts awarded through airport improvement projects must be equitably available to DBE-qualified businesses, which are 51% or more minority owned, he said. Contractors are required to adhere to DBE policy and city-specific goals for contracts with the U.S. Department of Transportation, such as ensuring nondiscrimination in contract awards and removing barriers for DBEs.

A three-year goal plan is under review by the FAA and may be altered, Metcalf said. The draft plan estimates an average of 3.9% DBE participation over three years, with a total estimated dollar amount of $109,200 expended on DBEs based on relative availability calculated using the FAA Matchmaker System.

“Say the contractor that’s awarded the project isn’t necessarily a DBE-qualified company, he would need to find somewhere in there where some of the parts of the project are awarded to a smaller company,” Metcalf said. “We have to follow it, but the idea is to make sure that it’s fair for everybody, and even small businesses have an opportunity.”