Aviation business owners at Van Nuys Airport cautioned Los Angeles World Airports on March 5 that a planned runway reconstruction project scheduled for next year could harm business, which is already struggling from the recession.

The owners found sympathetic ears on the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners who delayed a vote to award a $1.5 million design services contract to give owners time to meet with Federal Aviation Administration officials and study alternatives.

LAWA staff recommended to the airport commissioners the reconstruction of the 50-foot wide center, or keel section of the main runway at the Valley airfield, a project that will close the runway for four weeks. The shoulders of the 8,000-foot runway would receive an asphalt overlay.

The reconstruction project will be paid for with a $25 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration, with a state grant and LAWA contributing to the balance.

Clay Lacy, who has operated his charter and aircraft management company at Van Nuys for more than 40 years, made clear his objections to the project and the harm it would cause his business.

“If the project goes through I would layoff 100 people immediately,” said Lacy who has a staff of about 200 employees.

The owners do not disagree that the runway needs repairs, just on how to go about doing the work in a way that would not harm or erode their businesses.

LAWA wants to reconstruct the runway down to the base, which officials said is in poor condition and deteriorating from the heavy jet traffic. A shorter runway, now used primarily by propeller aircraft, would be available for some jet traffic during the closure of the main runway.

The Van Nuys Airport Association, representing Lacy and other major leaseholders at the airport, contends that an asphalt overlay would be less expensive and less disruptive to airport operations.

“The owners are not convinced a 20-year overlay is not possible,” said Curt Castagna, president of the association and CEO of Aerolease Associates, owner of hangar and office space at the airport.

An asphalt overlay on the main runway would need to be 8 inches to 9 inches thick but would not address sub-structural problems, said Michael Feldman, deputy executive director for facility planning for LAWA.

“The (proposed reconstruction) strikes a balance between minimizing the closure and producing a quality product that will be desirable and easy to maintain,” Feldman said.

The airport agency, however, is under a tight deadline if it wants to receive the FAA grant. Information on construction companies bidding on the project need to be given to the FAA by August to be in time for the FAA to award the grant before the end of its fiscal year on Sept. 30.