HIGHFILL -- Northwest Arkansas National Airport officials are hitting pause on a new rental car facility and plan to get input from consultants and staff about other projects that are part of an overall terminal improvement plan.
Their actions are in response to uncertainty stemming from the covid-19 pandemic.
No vote was taken Wednesday during a conference call meeting of the airport board's Operations Committee, but staff reported the rental car companies operating at the airport are hesitant to go forward with the project.
"They don't want to get into the design process of something that may have to be resized or redesigned based on the outcome of covid, social distancing, sanitizing procedures, those kinds of things," said Kelly Johnson, the airport's chief operating officer. "At this point in time, they want us to push pause and monitor and reshape this process when things have more appropriately settled from their business and financial perspective."
Committee members said the same kind of uncertainty extends to their plans for terminal renovation.
"You've got to imagine every business, every government agency is completely panicked right now over what happened to their existing three-year strategies, and everybody's got their very murky crystal balls out trying to figure out what data are even relevant to map out some kind of forward planning," said Sara Lilygren, chairwoman of the committee.
Lilygren said data about the airport has been collected and projections made, but she'd like to have some help determining what parts of that are actually relevant.
Aaron Burkes, chief executive officer, said staff has pulled together Height-Jackson architects, Garver Engineering and Mead & Hunt, the airport's consulting firm, to help them make sure projects are sequenced in such a way that working on one doesn't negatively impact another.
Burkes said staff will come to the September board meeting with more specific ideas and estimated costs for a plan that lays out how the airport can reach at least the conceptual stage for all its projects.
Some capital projects expected between now and 2030 include renovation and expansion of the terminal, a connector building between the parking garage and the terminal, a new concourse and an airport connector road.
Customer facility charges
A future parking garage and facilities for rental car companies would be paid for using a fee the companies collect from customers for the airport. The charge at XNA is $4.75 for each day a car is rented. The fees are earmarked to be used for facilities and operations that support rental car companies and their customers.
Source: Northwest Arkansas National Airport
Ron Wood can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWARDW.