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Mike Diamond – Palm Beach Post

Supply-chain issues, high labor costs, and inflation are creating havoc with more than a half-billion dollars in county construction projects, forcing delays of as long as a year, according to county officials.

Isami Ayala-Collazo, director of Facilities Development & Operations for Palm Beach County, recently told county commissioners that additional funding may be needed to finish the projects.

One of the bigger impacts is at Palm Beach International Airport where Concourse B is being expanded. Laura Beebe, airport director, said the project is designed to ensure that PBIA has the capacity to comfortably accommodate passengers as demand continues to increase.

She said there is a need for additional passenger seating areas, restrooms, passenger boarding bridges and concession spaces. The project will improve overall passenger experience, she noted.

It should also generate additional revenues through expanded concession spaces, Beebe added.

The first phase is expected to be completed in February 2024, and will include the expansion of restrooms and additional space for restaurants. The next phase is anticipated to start that same month, but Beebe said it is too soon to provide a firm completion date because of supply chain issues and escalating costs.

PBIA is also installing a new system to cool aircraft parked at passenger-boarding bridges. The projects require two new electrical distribution switchboards.

Initially, airport officials expected to have parts within 18 weeks but the manufacturer now estimates it will take 88 weeks to deliver the equipment, according to Beebe, pushing the completion date to at least February 2026.

The airport recently failed to receive a bid for pavement repair. When the project was re-bid, only one contractor submitted a proposal, and it was 46 percent higher than the budgeted amount.

Other projects that are dealing with delays include: 

  • Supervisor of Elections facility in West Palm Beach. Its construction contingency of $1.3 million has been depleted.
  • Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office District 1 & Marine Unit. Costs have increased by 35 percent from $14.1 million in November 2021 to $18.9 million as of September 2022.
  • Pipeline construction, Water Utilities Department. The bid was more than 50 percent higher than the previous bid from 2019.

Moreover, the county had to terminate a contract related to a dune-and-beach-restoration project. The contractors refused to do the work because of diesel price increases.

Ayala-Collazo noted that the no-bid and single-bid results often lead to a costly duplication of efforts and lengthy delays. This an issue that is occurring throughout the state, she told The Palm Beach Post.

“We are going to have to adapt,” she said. “It will be a challenge. No one has a clear answer as to when the market will stabilize.”

Dave DeMay of Kast Construction is overseeing the construction of several fire-rescue stations.

“Contractors can make more on the private side, and they get paid much quicker,” DeMay said. “It is a real problem for the public sector right now. We are having trouble finding workers.”

Michelle DePotter, CEO of the Florida East Coast Chapter of Associated General Contractors (AGC), said the cost of concrete has significantly increased and that electrical switch gear can take as long as six months to acquire.

“These issues affect both private and public sector work,” she said, noting that a recent survey undertaken by AGC shows that nationally 91 percent of construction firms reported difficulty filling positions.

“What’s astounding is 77 percent of firms believe that available candidates lack the skills needed to work in construction,” DePotter said, “and two-thirds of them … have projects that have been delayed because of labor shortages.”

Mike Diamond is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. He covers Palm Beach County government and transportation. You can reach him at Help support local journalism. Subscribe today.