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SRQ terminal could get major renovation

MANATEE — Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport officials plan to spend as much as $22 million to rehabilitate and update the airport’s terminal building.

The Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority began planning for the upcoming renovation work Tuesday, choosing an overall design scheme featuring terrazzo flooring instead of one using tile.

But the board debated and left deeper questions unresolved, such as whether the project will be done all at once or in phases; who would design the project; and exactly how it would be paid.

The terminal, which opened in October 1989, now has carpeting that is worn in places, outdated ceiling tiles and a lighting system that is energy inefficient, said Rick Piccolo, SRQ’s president and chief executive. The building’s security, electrical, fire alarm and heating/cooling systems also need major work, he said.

He proposed doing the upgrades in several phases, with the first being the public rest rooms. Preliminary estimates peg the overall cost at $18 to $22 million, with the majority of it coming from annual Federal Aviation Administration grants

But authority member Carlos Beruff, citing his business experience as a homebuilder, said doing the project all at once would lower the overall cost. He also said the airport should bid the project on a design-build basis.

“Design is a matter of taste, but money is money,” he said.

Piccolo and other SRQ officials said it might not be so simple. The FAA, which must approve the project’s design because federal money would be used, has little experience with the design-build process, they said. And the airport might have to use short-term borrowing to do everything at once, Piccolo said.

But the potential savings intrigued the authority, which told Piccolo to approach FAA about design-build and research the pros and cons of doing the project in phases or as a whole. He is scheduled to update the authority at its Feb. 23 meeting.

Also on Tuesday, the authority picked firms to begin contract negotiations to design a proposed new air traffic control tower and a taxiway extension. The board also learned SRQ handled slightly more than 1.34 million passengers in 2009, a 10.6 percent drop from 1.5 million the previous year.

Duane Marsteller, transportation reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.