City of Wichita may hire airport roof inspector

An AirTran jet parks at a gate at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. (September 27, 2010)
An AirTran jet parks at a gate at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. (September 27, 2010) File photo

The Wichita City Council will consider Tuesday whether to borrow $50,000 to pay a consultant to inspect hail-damaged roofs at Mid-Continent Airport.

But at least one council member is questioning why the city, which has its own building-inspection and engineering staff, can't do the work itself to save the money.

The Airport Department is requesting that the council — which also acts as the Airport Authority — approve hiring Jim D. Koontz & Associates Inc., a roof consulting firm based in Hobbs, N.M.

The company would evaluate the damage to airport roofs from a storm with baseball-size hail that blasted through west Wichita in September. In addition, the company would be asked to develop specifications for putting repairs out to bid.

In a separate vote, the council is being asked to authorize $50,000 in general obligation bonds to borrow money to pay for the inspection.

The money would be repaid by the airport, a self-sustaining entity that gets most of its money from user fees, parking, concession revenue and government grants.

Council member Michael O'Donnell said he discussed the consultant hiring with City Manager Bob Layton on Friday and that "the manager doesn't think that has to be the case."

O'Donnell said he plans to ask why the city can't handle the roof inspection itself and save the cost of the consultant because it has both an Office of Central Inspection — which is responsible for commercial roofing across the city — and an Engineering Department to provide expertise on public projects.

"We need to use city resources first," he said. "I definitely have questions about this."

Council member Janet Miller said she spoke to airport director Victor White, who told her that the airport wanted the expertise of a company that specializes in the roofing field because of widespread damage to numerous buildings with different types of roofs. Koontz & Associates was recommended for the contract after a competitive request for proposals.

Miller said White also told her that having an outside expert could help the airport build a case in negotiations with its insurer.

"There's some dispute with the insurance company, whether it's storm damage or age and maintenance issues," she said.

She said if most of the damage turns out to be covered by insurance, it may not be necessary to borrow money to pay for the inspection.

Or, she said, that cost could be combined with repair costs later into a larger bond issue.

"Fifty thousand dollars is probably a little low to bond the project," she said.

The council will meet at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall, 455 N. Main, Wichita.

The roof inspection contract and the bonding authority to pay for it are both on the "consent agenda," a part of the meeting schedule reserved for routine business items that are expected to pass with minimal discussion.