The Inyokern Airport board of directors on Wednesday approved a bid in the amount of $213,486 from JW Griffin Construction to build an Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting building, primarily to house the airport’s crash rescue truck.

The vote was 4-0; director Axel Alvarez was not present at the meeting.

The new building came as a result of the airport’s desire to move its truck from a station closer to the apron. In December, Empire Steel was awarded a contract for design, fabrication, and delivery of the metal building. Also in that month, bids went out for the “site-work package,” including demolition, earthwork, subgrade preparation of the building foundation, erection of the building, extension of water, sewer and electrical utilities to the building, inside improvements, a second floor for storage, and ADA-compliant features (parking space, sidewalk and signage).

However, according to John Smith from Tartaglia Engineering, the bids came in “exceptionally high.” Smith, in a memo to the board, put an engineer’s estimate of $140,000 for the projects.

“It appears that that was more wishful thinking than my base knowledge on what a metal building costs in Inyokern,” Smith said. Most bids came in at least three times the estimate — the lowest at $420,000.

“While I was never officially given any sort of budget on what this should be, I can tell you that all of the discussions that [general manager] Scott [Seymour] and I had, those numbers weren’t even in the room,” Smith said. “We were so far above any of our previous discussions, it was just determined to reject all bids.”

So, it was time to reevaluate the need and discover what, at minimum, the airport needed for the building. The bid package on the table Wednesday represented a bare-bones version of what was originally bid in December. No bathrooms, no second level, no electrical inside the building. There will still be stub-outs for sinks and toilets for the possibility of future construction projects down the road.

“It is anticipated that these items will eventually be constructed in some level of a follow-on activity,” Smith said.

Out of the aforementioned list, the airport will get sub grade preparation, a concrete slab, erection of the metal building (provided by Empire), the doors to the garage, and insulation.

“It will be an environmentally controlled space that will be acceptable for parking a truck,” Smith said.

Director Russ Bates clarified that since there will be no electric utilities in the building from the get-go, that means the doors will be operated manually.

“The doors have been planned to be manual all along,” Smith affirmed. Over recent years, there had been talks to close the Inyokern fire station. The Kern County Fire Department and the Inyokern Airport renegotiated their lease and came to an agreement last June: KCFD will pay a monthly rent, while the airport district is responsible for those responsibilities With no commercial airline service at the airport — Boutique Air, the most recent, ran from August 2017-October 2017 — the airport had room to take over crash rescue responsibilities.

Entering Wednesday, the question was what to do with the fire truck that the airport owns.

“We’ve looked at this from every which way we can,” said board president Paul Valovich. “There didn’t seem to be a zero-cost solution.”

During the discussion, vice president Steven Morgan Seymour what the ceiling was for the bids, considering all previous ones were rejected.

“It was between $220,000 and $250,000,” Seymour replied.

Added Valovich: “We didn’t pull this thing out of our rear ends. There was a lot of analysis and discussion that went into this to try to come up with an optimal solution.”

Morgan motioned for approval, and Bates seconded the motion.

The next airport board regular meeting is scheduled for March 14.