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Airport terminal project heads toward construction

The Bemidji Regional Airport Authority set in motion Wednesday night the steps necessary to begin construction of an $8 million terminal expansion and upgrade project.

It approved a $561,900 contract with HNTB Corp. for design services and appointed an evaluation team to prepare requests for proposals and screen potential construction managers.

HNTB will take the project up to the construction phase, Bemidji Regional Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen said.

According to the task order approved by the authority under a master agreement with HNTB, the firm will do project design until Feb. 19 and review and make revisions through March 18, when constructions documents are to be completed.

The project would go out for bids March 19 and a bid opening held April 13. Contracts would be awarded April 21, after which construction can start.

At that point, the authority decided that the actual construction should be supervised by a construction manager, rather than having Van Leeuwen and the Airport Authority doing so, through consultant HNTB, which would do construction administration/observation and grant closeout services.

The authority decided not hire HNTB at $555,900 for those services, and instead voted unanimously to form an evaluation team to screen and recommend a construction manager, or owner's representative, to the authority.

"I was most vehemently against it last spring," said Airport Authority Chairman Marshall Froyd of when the authority earlier dismissed the idea of hiring a construction manager. "Time moved forward, and I am not trained to look at this stuff. It is time for a construction manager."

In representing the owner, the Airport Authority, the independent construction manager provides daily oversight to all phases of construction and coordinates activity between subcontractors to ensure the project is done on time and according to construction document specifications.

The position will cost more than $100,000, Van Leeuwen said, so a formal requests for proposals process will have the evaluation team conduct interviews and recommend a candidate to the full authority.

Appointed were Van Leeuwen, Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy and Bemidji City Manager John Chattin. The team will appoint an engineer and an architect, both familiar with airports.

"We'll end up with an owner's representative with construction experience and a level of construction responsibility," Van Leeuwen said. "We've moved past the design stage."

Most of the project is being funded through a federal grant, he said, adding that $5.99 million is currently available for the Bemidji project.

Authority members were ready to consider a smaller scope task order with HNTB for construction administration and observation services for $434,000, but Murphy urged the authority to put off that decision until a construction manager is hired.

The task order calls for "consulting services during construction," Murphy said. "I recommend hiring the owner's representative and then get advice on the task order before approving it."

Authority members agreed, and put off consideration of construction consulting services until after a construction manager is on board.

Construction is slated to end in August 2011.

Among improvements, the passenger screening and gate holding area will be increased, as 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.

The ticket area will be renovated to allow for more than one carrier.

Wednesday's meeting was called to solely consider terminal construction matters. It was recessed until next Wednesday, when the authority meets to consider regular monthly business.