How the budget for John Wayne Airport's new electricity and air conditioning generator nearly tripled in size — from an inkling of an idea at $11 million to a robust utility plant at $31 million — apparently is not a case of contractors bilking the county-owned aviation hub or of frivolous spending.
Rather, it illustrates how major construction projects often morph, especially when they are planned in a volatile cost environment and are part of a larger undertaking, like the airport's half-billion dollar expansion.
"More often than not, it's a more innocent explanation," said Allan Hauck, the construction management department head at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. "The most likely culprit is that the project is so complex and there are so many unknowns."
Indeed, when JWA officials first started planning to produce their own electricity and air conditioning in the early 2000s, they didn't account for replacing much of their aging existing equipment, which they would still need for backup. Nor had they planned on building a freestanding structure to house all of the equipment.