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Bemidji Regional Airport: Budget draws debate

Bemidji Airport Authority Commissioner Jim Lucachick will have to wait another month to have his construction budget questions answered.

A critic of the ongoing airport terminal construction project, Lucachick repeated requests Wednesday for a detailed budget for the project.

"At the risk of having egg on my face again, what is the total project budget and design fees?" Lucachick asked as Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen was updating commissioners on the $9 million terminal project.

"We'll get that for you at the next meeting," Van Leeuwen said. "It's all on a spreadsheet and I'll bring that to the next meeting."

Part of the problem, Van Leeuwen said, is that 10 federal grants are involved and the project payments must be broken up into what each grant will cover. And, he said, each requires a different local match.

Commissioners Wednesday approved a task order that compiled together for a grant parts of the project that can't fit under any other grant.

So far, Van Leeuwen said, the project average will be 11 percent local funding and 89 percent federal funding for the project.

"There are so many parts," Lucachick said. "I have never been involved in a project that moves around so much."

A Beltrami County commissioner, Lucachick is a self-employed architect whose background includes financial tracking of a federal project in International Falls to construct a Border Patrol station.

"There are 10 grants tied up in this -- it is not fun," Van Leeuwen said.

"To my fellow elected officials, how can you run the purse strings when you don't know what you've got?"

With Commissioner Ron Johnson absent, Commisioners Roger Hellquist and Jack Frost didn't answer.

"I'll bring the spreadsheet next time -- it's all on there," Van Leeuwen said. "As of right now, looking at the bottom line, we are still about $56,000 under budget."

Lucachick asked him how he knew that, and Van Leeuwen said following the spreadsheet revealed those numbers. Asked how, that worked and Van Leeuwen said, "I don't have those numbers here at the table."

At the February meeting, Lucachick asked for "a very clear definition of scope" of the project, what was intended and what was bid and where the project currenty is. Those questions went unanswered Wednesday.

Terminal offices should be ready to turn over to the Airport Authority on May 13.

In other business, the Authority voted to accept $38,260 on a 70 percent state, 30 percent local match for a marketing program for the airport. Lucachick cast the lone dissenting vote.