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Decision nears on airport terminal construction manager

A decision on an owner's representative to guide an $8 million Bemidji Regional Airport Terminal project could come at the end of next week.

Three firms were finalists in the selection and will be interviewed by a panel on Monday, Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen said at Wednesday night's Airport Authority meeting.

Work is slated to begin this spring on a terminal expansion and renovation project, which could result in larger planes being serviced at Bemidji.

The Airport Authority decided to go the route of hiring an owner's representative, or construction manager, to guide contractors and subcontractors on construction rather than originally wanting to do that itself, with the help of consultants.

The three firms are:

- Construction Analysis & Management of Baxter, Minn., the firm that provided construction management services to all of Beltrami County's campus buildings downtown.

- Diehl Project Management of Tenstrike. Van Leeuwen said owner Paul Diehl has been involved in a number of local projects, including the Hampton Inn and Suites.

- Bemidji businessman Steve Inkel, who has a number of local developments and formerly operated as Diversified Builders.

A panel consisting of Van Leeuwen, Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy and Bemidji City Manager John Chattin will review each firm's proposal on Friday, and will interview all three on Monday.

It is Van Leeuwen's hope that the full Airport Authority can hold a special meeting late next week to hire the owner's representative.

He also reported that starting April 6, Delta's regional carrier will begin making three flights daily to Bemidji, one more than currently seen. He met with two Delta senior vice presidents on Jan. 29.

A flight will depart at 6:40 a.m., a second flight will arrive about 11 a.m. and turn around for a return flight to the Twin Cities and a third will arrive at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. and also turnaround for a return flight to the Twin Cities, Van Leeuwen said.

A flight will arrive at Bemidji at about 8 p.m. and will overnight here, being the first flight out in the morning. That flight will leave the Twin Cities at about 7:10 p.m.

"It will be a tight window for West Coast travelers," Van Leeuwen said of connections in the Twin Cities once the Bemidji flights arrive. "In the summer they will start using CRJ regional jets for two flights, but I've asked them to have one of them the overnight flight."

The first flight out in the morning is well used, he said, as connections to East Coast cities are easier.

A Bemidji Regional Airport marketing consultant is currently at the Allegiant Air Conference in Las Vegas, and is meeting with "decision makers" about future flights, Van Leeuwen said.

"I don't expect anything this year, but maybe after the new terminal opens in 2012," he said. One requirement is that 150 passengers can be quickly moved through screeners, which the new terminal will offer.

"I expect if they come, it will be only two or three flights a month, with two of them to Las Vegas," Van Leeuwen said.

He also reported the conclusion of a three-year project to replace the airport's VOR -- VHF Omni-directional Radio Range -- equipment. The ground station broadcasts a VHF composite radio signal that is used as a navigational aid .

The equipment is key to making Bemidji Regional Airport an all-weather airport for both its runways, he said. The VOR signal will be published as a navigation aid for pilots on April 5.

The $750,000 project saw state and federal support, he said.

Van Leeuwen said that U.S. Sen. Al Franken, DFL-Minn., will hold a lunch meeting with him on aviation issues about noon Saturday. He will also tour the airport property.

The meeting is closed to the public, Van Leeuwen said.