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Terminal consultant contracts next step for $8 million Bemidji Regional Airport renovation, expansion project

Bemidji Regional Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen, left, explains a proposed terminal expansion project to Jim Brewer on Wednesday morning during an open house. The $8 million project will mostly be funded through grants and will double the size of the terminal, making the building more energy efficient. Construction is slated to begin next spring. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

A Dec. 16 Bemidji Regional Airport Authority special meeting will be used to consider consultant contracts for a proposed $8 million terminal renovation and expansion project.

Approving those contracts moves the project to the preparation of construction documents and putting the project out for bids, Tom Angus of HNTB Corp. told Airport Authority commissioners on Wednesday..

The contracts, given to commissioners at their regular meeting Wednesday evening, call for HTNB to complete design efforts, prepare contract documents for bidding, assist with bidding of proposed improvements, provide construction administration and observation services and prepare closeout documents.

Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen had asked for a Dec. 3 special meeting to go over the contracts and approve them, but Commissioner Joe Vene said he wanted more time to study the documents, opting for a late December meeting.

But Van Leeuwen said that federal grants tied to the project call for a project go-ahead by the week of Nov. 30. Any later, he said, the project would be halted until that approval came, and the timing of future grants would be affected.

It was Vene who last month presented commissioners with a list of concerns he wanted answered about the terminal project, including a narrative description of the full project and justification for pursuing the project.

While Vene's list wasn't discussed Wednesday, the commissioners compromised by calling a Dec. 16 special meeting to go over the contracts and moving the Airport Authority's regular meeting to Dec. 23.

Under the proposed contracts, Miller Dunwiddie Architecture would provide subcontract services for the architectural, mechanical and electrical design efforts. Karvakko Engineering would provide sub consultant services for utility and site improvements surrounding the terminal and complex buildings. It would also do materials testing during construction.

Under two different task orders for the project, HNTB would be paid $1.1 million for its services. Under that contract, Miller Dunwiddie would be paid $569,720 and Karvakko Engineering $328,000.

Bids will be opened March 23 under the project timeline, with contracts for construction awarded April 7, Angus said. Construction is slated to end in August 2011.

Among improvements, the passenger screening and gat holding area will be increased, was well as baggage handling areas and bag screening areas. The terminal will be expanded to the west, toward Bemidji Aviation offices, with a new public seating area and vending area.

Van Leeuwen said Delta will no longer use Saab turboprop planes for regional routes as of mid-2012, sticking exclusively to regional jets CRJ-200, a 55-passenger aircraft. The new terminal will include passenger boarding bridges to allow passengers to embark and disembark from the plane to the terminal without going outside.

Two days of public open houses at the airport didn't bring many members of the public, Van Leeuwen said. But a stakeholders' meeting Wednesday was well-attended, and included a host of officials representing utilities, phone company, Bemidji Fire Department, city of Bemidji and others.

"Those who did attend were pleased," Van Leeuwen said. "There were questions about access to the parking lot, and about snow and ice handling at the entryway." The potential plans "were well-received," he added.

"Now we need to move ahead with the next level, consultant documents," he said.

In another major development Wednesday, the Airport Authority voted to accept a memo of understanding to allow the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board to administer airport zoning for the Bemidji Regional Airport. The acceptance is pending a fee schedule of what the authority will pay the JPB for the new duties.

While the JPB already has zoning authority for airport property within the city limits, the memo of understanding would allow the JPB to administer airport zoning over airport property in Northern, Eckles and Grant Valley townships. Eckles and Grant Valley have not adopted zoning regulations.

"The JPB accepts the MOU with the exception of determining fees and participation level," said Mel Milender, JPB planning administrator. "The airport that is within the city limits is within the area of JPB administration."

But airport safety hazard zones extend into surrounding townships, and the new agreement will allow the JPB to handle density and height airport zoning provisions, Milender said.

Yet to be worked out are the fees, or "what the airport will pay for administration work for administering airport zoning," said Van Leeuwen. "It's a fee for service."

Milender said letters will be sent to all affected property owners to notify them of the change and that their deeds will be changed to reflect they are under airport zoning restrictions.

Airport zoning has been lax in the past, Van Leeuwen said. No one from Grant Valley Township has ever even approached the Airport Authority for permission involving developments there, he said.

According to the MOU, "the entire airport hazard area shall become subject to all zoning regulations, standards and requirements applicable within the airport overlay district ..."

Already some cases have come up, Milender said. In one, a business wishing to construct a tower to send microwave communications to Bagley had to change plans as the microwaves would have crossed the airport runways.

In another case, he said a plan to build a bowling alley near the end of a runway needs to be modified to prevent a large light display or flashing lights.

"A lot of the public doesn't realize that airport zoning exists," Milender said. "This formalizes it."