Airport committee defers contract decision, inquiry continues

By Lauren Ratcliffe
Published March 28, 2013

Redevelopment of the Charleston International Airport hit a snag as a committee tasked with overseeing the project could not recommend approval of a construction administration contract on Wednesday.

The Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Committee met to discuss a bid for a construction administration contract but did not vote on the issue. Instead, the committee requested that airport staff meet with the project’s architect and project manager to iron out a price tag.

Hours before the committee meeting, Michael Baker Corp. met with Andy Savage, chairman of the Charleston County Aviation Authority to discuss tensions between the authority and the company. Savage said Baker had already planned to withdraw its $4.2 million bid for the construction administration contract when they met.

Savage said he met with Baker as a part of an evaluation of board member interactions with outside companies. He said the withdrawal of the bid will not stop the ongoing inquiry, but allows Baker to fulfill its role as project manager and act as an extension of airport staff for the duration of the project.

“Baker was retained to provide the services that the Charleston County Aviation Authority staff would otherwise provide if the project was smaller and less intense,” Savage said. “Baker should be treated as staff and in that capacity staff would always evaluate and advise on cost.”

Baker representatives said they thought the construction administration contract should be worth about $4 million. That recommendation made some committee members hesitant to award the contract until they could iron out the differences in numbers.

“I don’t understand how someone can sit on a public board and have the expert hired to tell us the right number, tell us that the right number is $4 million, and then vote to spend almost $9 million,” said committee member Larry Richter.

Fentress Architects, the project’s architect of record, submitted a bid that would cost the authority $8.6 million.

Baker recommended supplementing architectural oversight with resident engineering and quality inspections at a cost of about $3.3 million. When added to the basic construction administration contract and materials testing costs, Baker’s recommended expenditure would total $7.5 million.

Dinos Liollio, of the Fentress team, said the $1 million difference between his team’s bid and Baker’s recommendation could be attributed to the number of working hours expected from his team.

Fentress’ fee included full-time on-site architects to observe and handle questions as construction proceeds and to provide oversight of specialized components including passenger bridges and baggage carousels.

Their revised bid was reduced from $9.1 million because the earlier bid also included special inspections and materials testing fees.

After the committee discussed the matter for more than two hours, they voted 4-2 to table discussion until after Baker, Fentress and airport staff could meet and iron out the differences between the bid price and Baker’s recommendation.

Hernan Pena, TRIP Committee chairman, plans to bring the groups together as soon as possible so the committee can make a recommendation to the authority.

Previous coverage

Charleston airport committee to take up contract that led to controversy
Charleston County Aviation Authority chairman to investigate member activities

Email Print

Do you give this article a thumbs up? Thumbs_upYes