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Page 151
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
Chapter 8
I'd first met Jay Tribble, cofounder of Trib-
ble & Stephens, years earlier when my avia-
tion attorney, Drew Coats, introduced Jay and
me at some political event in Houston, now
long forgotten. At the time I was looking for
a contractor to build the Houston Executive
Airport. Jay seemed like a nice enough guy
so I added Tribble & Stephens to the bidders
list, evaluated five or so bids, and not long af-
ter awarded his company the contract.
That was all in the past. By 2008 Jay Tribble
was long gone, having sold his share in the
company, presumably for a wad of cash, and
was now out combing the planet for greener
pastures. The newly reorganized Tribble &
Stephens, minus Jay Tribble, offered to build
the 4,020-foot runway for $4.9 million, a lot
of money, granted, but not even close to the
actual price tag of $6.4 million that I'd have
to contend with months down the road. We
signed the contract in September 2008, and
a month later Tribble & Stephens's grading
subcontractor got busy scooping up the first
of a half million cubic yards of dirt from one
end of the property and dumping it at the oth-
er, creating a more or less level four thousand
foot long swath of black dusty clay angled
across the property.
Only days after getting started, it seemed,
I got my first "Work Change Directive," a
common request for more money by another
name, and they kept coming with spectacu-
lar regularity for the next eight months. Ear-
ly on I received an appeal for an additional
$32,000 to tie in the old and new taxiways;
followed by a polite requisition for $1.8 mil-
lion to increase the depth of lime-treated dirt
subgrade, crushed rock base, and asphalt;
followed by a call for $47,000 to add a layer
of asphalt emulsion between the lime-treated
subgrade and the crushed rock; a request for
$352,000 to upgrade the rock base under the
entire runway to a high-tech rock known as
P209, and on it went. To be fair, few of the
changes came as a surprise. What aggravated
my project team and Andy Perry, especially,
was the change order process itself.
Andrew D. Perry held the dual role of Vice
President of Development for Bird's Nest Air-
port and Executive Director of the Houston
Executive Airport. For a young man, he came
at the job with a notable history of managing
airports, including stints at Dubuque Region-
al Airport, Terre Haute International Airport,
and Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. With
respect to change orders, it was Andy's chore
to review the paperwork, make sure the pro-
posed changes and costs were in line, and if
not, give a shout to some number-cruncher
at Tribble & Stephens and square things and,
once squared, to give the request his bless-
ing. With all that behind him, he sent the pa-
perwork along to me for official sanction.
When put on the page, this nifty little pro-
cess sounded like a mundane drill, an easygo-
ing check in a construction process already
burdened with lots of checks. Only it wasn't
easygoing. The process was contentious and
cranky. From Andy's point of view, the Tribble
& Stephens change order routine was exas-
perating. In April as the project was winding
down and a handful of fat yellow asphalt roll-
ers lolled back and forth across runway 31,
when Tribble & Stephens dispatched change