The project manager in charge of all construction for the $310-million expansion of John Wayne Airport is stepping down, it was announced Thursday.
Richard J. Begley has been project manager for HPV, the consulting firm hired by the county to oversee the expansion, since 1986. Some consider him the most knowledgeable expert on the expansion, the largest public works project in Orange County history.
Begley is leaving to become president of a subsidiary of Ralph M. Parsons Co., one of three firms that make up the HPV management consortium. Begley's replacement will be John McCarney, a 32-year Parsons Co. veteran and a construction specialist.
The announcement comes after months of controversy about alleged design errors and cost overruns in the project and also after an Orange County Grand Jury report that the new passenger terminal is 4 months behind schedule.
Alan Murphy, the county's airport project coordinator, said Begley's departure is not a result of any concern over construction delays or difficulties.
"We believe that Dick has done a good job, and we wanted him to remain with the project," Murphy said. "The grand jury report was actually quite favorable toward the project manager. Dick had made a decision to improve himself professionally, and we wish him well."
Chris Elliott, project director for Taylor Woodrow, the general contractor for the new terminal, said the timing of Begley's departure is "horrible" because the expansion is "just now picking up some momentum."
Begley is expected to remain full time on the job for several weeks, working with McCarney to brief him on the project, said Courtney Wiercioch, an airport specialist in Supervisor Thomas F. Riley's office. Begley will gradually withdraw from the job, although he will remain as a consultant through the completion of airport expansion, she said.
"It was critical that Dick remain a part of this project," Wiercioch said. "He has so much expertise, so much knowledge. The county just believed that it was impossible to transfer this kind of knowledge in one afternoon."