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Airport project owner's rep hired on split vote

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The Bemidji Regional Airport Authority used a split vote Friday night to hire Construction Analysis & Management of Brainerd to oversee an $8 million terminal expansion project.

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Authority members voted 3-2 to hire CAM, which was the recommendation of an authority-appointed selection committee. The panel interviewed three firms for the position of owner's representative who will work with the general contractor in overseeing the project for the authority.

Authority member Jim Lucachick argued for Steve Inkel, a Bemidji contractor who would have set up a separate company as owner's rep. Lucachick, starting his second year as a Beltrami County commissioner, alluded that CAM has too cozy a relationship with the county, and he'd prefer a local person for the job.

CAM has served as construction manager for all the county's buildings on its downtown campus.

"The county has what is a continued relationship with CAM," Lucachick said. "We did have a lot of local contractors, but also a continued relationship with CAM building after building after building. There were multiple, continuous contracts."

Authority member Roger Hellquist, a Bemidji city councilor, joined Lucachick in opposing CAM. Jack Frost, a Beltrami County commissioner, motioned to accept CAM as owner's rep, seconded by Ron Johnson, a Bemidji city councilor. Authority Chairman Marshall Froyd voted to hire CAM, breaking the deadlock.

A selection committee of Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen, Bemidji City Manager John Chattin and Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy ranked the three firms on the basis of qualifications, cost proposals and an in-person interview.

Diehl Project Management, a relatively new Bemidji area firm, was the third firm considered and was dropped early by the Airport Authority, which then concentrated on CAM and Inkel. In total scoring, CAM led with 11 points, followed by Inkel with 16 and Diehl with 27.

Lucachick noted that a partner in CAM is Gary Otterstad, brother to former Commissioner Ron Otterstad, who Lucachick defeated in 2008.

"Projects that CAM did were excellent jobs," said Frost in defense of the county retaining CAM as construction manager on a half-dozen buildings, a move that is a legal extension of a professional services contract. "And Ron Otterstad recused himself from all votes involving CAM."

Later, Frost asked Lucachick if he should recuse himself since he has worked with Inkel many times. Lucachick is an architect.

"In a community like this, all of us know the people," said Van Leeuwen. "I don't think any recusing needs to be done here."

Hellquist, who said he talked by phone with Inkel earlier Friday, related that Inkel's bid may have been interpreted wrongly. Inkel bid $102,000 for owner's rep services, plus several thousand for incidentals and liability insurance, and up to $160,000 for construction manager services.

Van Leeuwen said the selection committee added up the reimbursables and said the bid considered at $160,000. Both CAM and Diehl had offered $150,000. All three said the job would be 16 hours a week, or 40 percent of a full-time-equivalent job.

Still, Inkel ranked first of the three in cost proposals, Van Leeuwen said, negating the argument that the bid was misinterpreted.

The selection committee thought Inkel gave an excellent presentation but from a construction perspective, Van Leeuwen said. "We didn't want that."

CAM will use a team, he said, with Ryan Heinbaugh as project manager and Jon Otterstad as site representative.

"Steve did really well, but you want some experience, which CAM has," Chattin said.

But Lucachick said the owner's rep should be "someone who has known the community for a long time and knows the contractors."

"Steve is a great guy, but I don't know who he has to go to in order to get help and remove roadblocks," Froyd said,

Van Leeuwen said CAM would be able to "know who does what to whom."

"We lose a sense of community with more and more carpetbaggers coming in," Lucachick said. "We need to grow our community, but having outside larger firms come in doesn't help our local, smaller firms."

He noted that for all the work CAM has done in Beltrami County, it has yet to open a local office.

The project to expand and remodel the airport terminal goes out for bids March 24 with a bid opening in mid-April, Van Leeuwen said. Bids will be awarded at the end of April with construction to start within 30 days of that, Van Leeuwen said.

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