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Page 118
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 6
lion from four categories: "miscellaneous"
($324,000), "overhead" ($421,000), "interest
carrying costs" ($351,000), and "total esti-
mated gas loss" ($199,000). To make sense of
the estimate, I spoke with several oil and gas
consultants who agreed that something was
strange about the estimate. At the same time,
each suggested that it was in my best interest
to accept the estimate and move ahead.
I didn't have a choice.
I couldn't move forward with the new run-
way without lowering the pipeline. Deep
down I knew I'd pay what I had to. I had es-
timated the airport to take around $30 mil-
lion to complete, and here was a $2.2 million
expenditure I hadn't planned for, and I just
hoped I wouldn't run out of money before I
completed the project.
The silver lining was that about this time
Atmos Energy sent me a notice, warning that
if project expenditures came in higher than
estimated I had to pay more. The notice also
contained good news. If the actual costs came
in less than my upfront payment, the compa-
ny would send me a refund. I wasn't holding
my breath.
Yet, that's exactly what they did.
In June 2009 Atmos Energy sent me a re-
fund check for $1.1 million. After I got over
the shock, I eyed the accompanying spread-
sheet of actual versus estimated costs. The
biggest savings were in the category "miscel-
laneous company expenses," in which some-
one had guesstimated $427,000 when the ac-
tual costs were about nine dollars. Next came
"overhead," where I got back $267,000, fol-
lowed by "interest carrying costs" (at a rate
of 18.15 percent), where I recovered another
$185,000. The numbers were staggering, both
the original estimate and how much the com-
pany returned. In fact, it was tough to sit back
and casually glance at the breakdown without
growing alarmed at the size of the error. How
exactly did America's largest natural-gas-only
distributor with 3 million customers and 4,600
employees get it so wrong?
Delays and Excuses
Long before I knew I'd be getting any mon-
ey back, I resigned myself to the expense
and wrote a check to begin construction. My
choices were to act now or risk months of de-
lays. I acted for two reasons. First, some of
the pipeline materials had a lead time of up to
six months. Second, Atmos Energy shut down
its line twice a year for maintenance. Tie-in of
the newly relocated pipelines had to happen
within this maintenance window. If I got the
company a check by the end of January, the
project would be completed by November. If
I missed the month-end deadline, I would be
lucky if any of the pipelines were lowered be-
fore May of next year.
I read over the draft Relocation Agreement
and the Easement and Restrictive Covenants
Agreement--fourteen pages of dense lan-
guage--and I grabbed the closest pen and I
signed the check while I still felt optimistic.
I sent the payment to Thomas Holley, Atmos
Energy's Senior Right of Way Agent, and
And waited.