NEW ORLEANS - Millions of travelers fly through Armstrong International Airport every year. And in just a few years, a major new terminal is expected to help the airport soar.
But the process hit a bump Monday.
Instead of choosing a bid, the Aviation Board decided to start the bidding process from scratch after one of the companies involved submitted a formal protest.
“I would surmise that the lawyers gave the board the advice, ‘Why go forward with this? We’re going to get sued.’ The safer approach is, ‘Let's just scrap the first request for proposals. Let's start over,’” said Eyewitness News Legal Analyst Donald "Chick" Foret.
Two joint ventures were vying for the $546 million contract. In May, the committee charged with recommending one of the came up with a tie, then decided on contender Parsons-Odebrecht.
Review committee member and Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant used to work for Parsons, but the city has said that does not violate any ethics laws, according to our partners at the New Orleans Advocate.
The other firm, Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro, filed a formal protest claiming the review committee didn't score properly.
"The process was open and fair. There have been issues raised by the Hunt Protest and by public comment, concerning the scoring on Disadvantaged Business Enterprises and cost; enough so that we were compelled to begin again to be absolutely sure that we get this right in the best interest of the community and the region,” said Cheryl Teamer, chairwoman for the New Orleans Aviation Board.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said that one of his priorities is to complete this new airport terminal by 2018, the city's tricentennial. The Aviation Board said that even with this delay, it still plans to meet that timeline.
“It would be a fitting way to remind not only ourselves but the rest of the world that New Orleans is a world class city with a world class airport,” said Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation.
You can expect to see a new request for proposals in the next few weeks, according to Michelle Wilcut, a spokeswoman for the Aviation Board.
According to state law, the RFP must be advertised for 30 days, and the review committee must make a recommendation 45 days after that. A new review committee will be selected in accordance with state law, said Wilcut.
“We are disappointed in the outcome of today’s New Orleans Aviation Board meeting, considering our proposal was fully responsive and met the highest score of the Selection Committee,” said the Parsons-Odebrecht team in a statement. “We built a strong, local team founded on experience who believes in honoring the RFP process. We will assess our options moving forward once we review the new RFP and the selection process.”
Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro declined to comment, except to say that it is still digesting the Aviation Board’s decision and plans to submit another bid when the process opens up.