NASA Ames deputy director Deb Feng said NASA has agreed to spend the $20 million on new siding for Hangar One and is looking for a source of the funds within its own budget.
The $20 million "should be just about enough" to restore the structure, Feng said, but that is only if Congresswoman Anna Eshoo is successful in getting another $10 million by month's end during the congressional lame duck session. And cost estimates for the work would have to come in under $30 million.
The cost of restoring Hangar One has not been finalized, Feng said. Estimates have ranged from $15 million to over $40 million. NASA will know what it will costs when it goes to bid on the project, Feng said.
"That's obviously great news, but with the federal budget being the mess that it is, we don't know when the money will become available," said Lenny Siegel of the Save Hangar One committee. "NASA Ames went to bat for this community, and I fear that NASA headquarters will use this commitment to reduce support for other activity at Ames. We should therefore be prepared, as a community, to go to bat for Ames and its scientific efforts."
In Washington D.C. in recent weeks Feng said she and other high level NASA officials have been discussing the $20 million the agency has agreed to come up with for the re-skinning effort to make sure "everyone is on the same page" about where the money would come from and how it would be used.
The U. S. Navy is planning to remove Hangar One's toxic laminate siding early next year and leave the 200 foot tall icon as a bare skeleton for NASA to re-skin.
A month ago NASA requested information from contractors interested in restoring the hangar and received three responses — "all of them a little incomplete," Feng said. "They didn't really address some of our engineering questions. Only one party made an attempt to give us an estimate."
Feng said she could not disclose what that estimate was because she did not want to influence future bidding on the project. She said there is plenty of interest from contractors, however.
Ames Director Pete Worden wishes to re-use Hangar One for its original purpose, airships. Feng said there are three potential tenants of Hangar One lined up, but she would not name names. The three tenants include private and government organizations that operate or build airships. There is room for multiple tenants in the hangar, she added.
Feng said NASA has no money to preserve historic structures in Hangar One. Historic artifacts that have an uncertain future include the "cork room" used to store the U.S.S. Macon's gas bags and hundreds of windows in the hangar's siding that alone could cost $1.2 million to save.
"We barely have funding for re-skinning Hangar One," Feng said. "The agency has no money for the restoration of historic" artifacts and structures inside the hangar. "It's not good news but I don't think it's going to be a surprise."
The Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board will discuss an update on Hangar One preservation efforts on Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Senior Center, 266 Escuela Ave.