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Bemidji Regional Airport Authority to open terminal bids

Bids to expand and renovate the Bemidji Regional Airport Terminal will be opened at 11 a.m. today in the terminal.

Some 60 contractors attended a pre-bid meeting and 80 construction documents were bought or downloaded for the estimated $8 million project, Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen said Wednesday night.

Officials are expecting six to eight general contractor bids. A selection team will spend Thursday afternoon and Friday, if needed, tabulating the bids to determine the apparent low bidder, working in concert with owner's representative Construction Analysis & Management of Brainerd.

"It astounded me that there are a number of people putting their bids together today," Van Leeuwen said at the Airport Authority's regular meeting Wednesday evening. "To me, it raises questions of how good will the quality of the bid be, and there will be a risk factor in the bid that we're going to pay for that."

Authority member Jim Lucachick, a self-employed architect, said that's an industry normal. "If you give eight weeks for bids, they'll be working on them in 7½ weeks."

Lucachick, however, decried a situation where he felt local subcontractors were unable to participate because the construction documents were too costly to obtain, at $275. A local company that wanted to submit a bid to paint, or to hang drywall, would find it too expensive just to bid.

Contractors had three ways to view the construction papers, Van Leeuwen said. They could purchase the set at $275, download the documents for $15 and have them printed out at their expense, or come to the airport and view then onsite.

"We want to have a process making these documents accessible and attainable to small contractors," Lucachick said. "The industry has to help bring electronic mechanization to these guys We could add a certain amount to the soft costs and provide it to them."

He suggested setting aside $10,000 next time to provide construction documents to small contractors to keep projects local.

"It never entered our minds" that small contractors would be kept from bidding if they don't have easy access to the construction documents in hand, Van Leeuwen said.

"We talk about green technology, but we need to still get the opportunity to those who have been in business 30 years locally who don't have the software," Lucachick said.

The only construction problem encountered so far, Van Leeuwen said, is that the work must be done with materials made in the United States, a prerequisite of the federal economic stimulus package, from which some project funding is coming.

It's especially tough with electrical work, he said, as the origin of manufacturing becomes hazy at the wholesale level.

Van Leeuwen said one of the applicants for owner's rep, Steve Inkel, protested the Airport Authority's selection of CAM as the owner's rep. Inkel's letter is under review by the city attorney and county attorney.

The airport manager said no further action is needed, as the authority followed the correct procedures in offering professional services contracts. Van Leeuwen, however, suggested the authority -- which is now a freestanding entity -- should have its own attorney familiar with airport matters on retainer rather than use city or county attorneys.

The Airport Authority agreed to seek request for qualifications from local attorneys.

The Airport Authority will hold a special meeting 4 p.m. April 29 to award terminal construction bids, and also a bid for a jet bridge from bids opened that morning.

Construction can begin as soon as project documents are signed after bidding. 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. Also, a jet bridge will allow passengers to embark and disembark directly from the aircraft to the terminal building.

Authority member Ron Johnson suggested the group next tackle marketing the airport, which is the fourth busiest airport in Minnesota.