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Airport terminal project scaled back

Bemidji Regional Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen, foreground, tabulates bids Thursday morning on an estimated $8 million terminal renovation/expansion project. With him are Mike Kearns, left, airport owner's representative with Construction Analysis & Management Inc., and Mike Karvakko, principal with Karvakko Engineering. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

Bids higher than anticipated for a Bemidji Regional Airport Terminal renovation/expansion will prompt a scaled-back project.

Five bids were opened at 11 a.m. Thursday at the airport, but three more were received minutes after the deadline, and excluded. The opened bids, however, exceeded project estimates of $8 million, which includes consultant and owner's representative costs.

"I don't understand in the construction world why wait to the last two minutes," Airport Authority Executive Director Harold Van Leeuwen said as the representatives of the three late firms left the room.

Donlar Construction of Waite Park, Minn., is the apparent low bidder for general contractor and appears to be accurate, responsible and correct, Van Leeuwen said in an e-mail Thursday, adding that officials were still going over bids and working to cut down the project by bid alternatives which were allowed under the construction bids.

"We do have to work to accomplish some significant savings but it is within reach and Donlar is working with us on options," Van Leeuwen said.  "We will continue to work (today) and meet with Donlar on Monday to complete the work. ... We are still going through the alternates/deducts and options."

The Bemidji Regional Airport Authority will meet April 29 to award the bid, as well as a bid for a jet bridge, with those bids opened that morning.

The project includes renovating the current terminal and expanding it to the south with a bag screening area and larger ticketing area, and the north with a public viewing area and vending. The terminal would be renovated to provide easier passenger screening and secure waiting area.

A jet bridge will allow passengers to embark and disembark directly from jet airliners to the terminal building. The bridge will allow more commercial regional jet travel to Bemidji, the state's fourth busiest commercial airport.

"The issue is clearly that it's a remodel and the building is difficult to do that to while at the same time meet the requirements to continue to operate, meet safety and security needs," Van Leeuwen said. "The phasing of this is the issue and that appears to be the case on each of the bids."

Backing out consultant, engineering and owner's rep cost, construction was estimated at $5 million to $7 million.

Funding for the project comes from the Federal Aviation Administration's Airport Improvement Project fund paid through an FAA Aviation Trust Fund. For this cycle, the Bemidji project has to be on contract and grant paperwork completed by May 20 to be eligible for funding.

"A tight schedule, with lots of difficult work still to be done before we get into the ground," Van Leeuwen said.

The airport terminal conference room was filled with contractors as the bids were opened. Assisting Van Leeuwen were Airport Authority Chairman Marshall Froyd; Mike Kearns, vice president of construction for owner's rep Construction Analysis & Management Inc. of Brainerd; and, Mike Karvakko, principal with Karvakko Engineering of Bemidji.