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Bemidji Regional Airport Terminal project bids to be trimmed

With Bemidji Regional Airport Terminal bids $1 million over project estimates, officials are scrambling to cleave off parts of the project.

"The low base bid of $7,866,963.68 was from Donlar Construction Inc. and was 14 percent over the estimate," Thomas Angus, senior project manager for aviation with HNTB Corp., told the Airport Authority on Thursday.

Donlar was the apparent low bidder of five firms bidding, with the highest bid at $1 million. There were no local firms bidding. The project estimate was $6,883,897.50.

"All the bids are in excess of the budget for this project," Angus said in memo to Authority commissioners. "As a result, we have been communicating with Donlar in an effort to develop items that could be revised and result in sufficient changes to the project that would bring it within budget."

The project was bid with a base bid and then two alternatives to reduce the base bid. Cutting both alternatives would drop Donlar's bid by about $96,400, bringing a low bid of $7,770,563.68.

Owner's representative Mike Kearns of Construction Analysis & Management Inc. outlined to the Authority at its special meeting Thursday 16 additional items that would be cut from the project for $440,000 in savings.

Angus asked the Authority to approve Donlar as the low bidder and award a contract for $7,770.563.68 under the condition that agreement is found on $440,000 in additional savings and they be approved later as change orders to the contract.

Commissioner Jim Lucachick objected, saying the Authority should only give its approval to a final contract figure. The Authority accepted his argument, and gave the Authority's consultants three weeks to negotiate with Donlap and return with a final contract number of about $7.33 million for approval.

A bid will be awarded at the Airport Authority's May 19 meeting, a day before the Federal Aviation Administration's deadline for submitted final construction approval to it for funding this cycle.

Lucachick also asked that Donlap include a list of local subcontractors it plans to work with.

"Our local ones didn't step up," said Airport Authority Chairman Marshall Froyd of the project bidders.

"All the subs should be local," sdded Kearns.

The complexity of the project in meeting FAA standards and in keeping the terminal open and operable during construction posed huge problems for local contractors to bid effectively, Angus said.

Most of the savings will come from putting off a jet bridge to connect the terminal to the expected CRJ regional jets Delta will fly to Bemidji. Bid were opened Thursday, but none were accepted. The low bid was $410,264.

The Airport Authority will receive in fiscal 2011 about $1 million in entitlement funds, which could at that time be used for the jet bridge, Angus suggested.

Having the jet bridge is a priority to woo air carrier Allegiant, but Angus assured commissioners that a jet bridge could be installed prior to any Allegiant flights, which wouldn't occur earlier than 2011.

Project contingency funds would be set at $350,000, he said.

The Airport Authority will have to issue bonds to make up the gap of up to $1 million, but Froyd said any bonds would be repaid with Passenger Facility Charges, not property tax dollars.

Some of the cost savings, Kearns said, can come from using sod landscaping rather than trees and shrubs, going with a flatter roof rather than pitched, deleting a vestibule planned between a terminal extension and Bemidji Aviation, and changing a steel roof structure and metal roofing over the gate ramp to light-gauge trusses.

Froyd, who was present at the initial bid opening, directed the meeting without Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen, who is ill and on extended leave..