WILLISTON - Construction is officially due to start on Williston’s new airport this fall. Airport and city officials say purchase agreements are signed for about 1,500 acres of land, and a groundbreaking date has been set for October.
Negotiations with eight landowners wrapped up in mid-July, clearing the way for the relocation project to move into its first building phase. Officials, citing various loose ends that have yet to be finalized in the deals, won’t yet say how much the city paid for the tracts of farm and pasture land.
“We haven’t completed everything yet, but everyone’s agreed in principle and we’re moving forward,” said Steven Kjergaard, director of Sloulin Field.
Groundbreaking at the future site of the Williston Basin International Airport is scheduled for Oct. 10 northwest of the city off of County Road 7.
In the meantime, bidding will start on several facets of construction, including the terminal building foundation, preliminary road construction and other staging areas. Those projects are expected to be complete by the end of this year. Grading work and a re-route of 59th Street will also be up for bid this year, bringing 2016’s construction costs to $18.5 million.
Kjergaard, who was among a group from Williston that met with members of the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, said project heads are hoping to pay for the first phase of construction with federal money.
The project’s total price tag has dropped to an estimated $240 million, down from $265 million that the city was banking on several weeks ago.
“We’ve been re-evaluating costs, we feel the bidding climate has gotten a lot better in the last couple of months,” Kjergaard said.
He, along with other airport representatives and companies contracted to work on the project, answered questions and shared a preview of the new terminal’s preliminary design at an open house Wednesday afternoon at the ARC.
A virtual reality tour showed a sleek two-story 110,000 square-foot building with an escalator, room for a restaurant and coffee shop, and the capability to unload four jets. Other displays showed a cost breakdown and detailed projected progress through 2019, when the airport is slated for completion.
Mark Andre, a Williston native, came to the event hoping to find out exactly where the site is located.
“I never thought I’d see Williston grow as much as it did,” he said, adding that he flew in and out Sloulin Field several times before the oil boom. “I remember the old old one,” he said of the original terminal, which dated back to the 1940s.
Many in attendance supported the project but wanted to know more.
Matt Vannatta, longtime Williston resident, arrived with a number of practical questions regarding site maintenance after construction is finished.
“As a resident I want to make sure they don’t build a terminal that doesn’t cost $48,000 a month to heat,” he said. “That’s ultimately what we’ve got to worry about… are we going to be able to keep it open.”