WICHITA — The scheduled start of construction on a new terminal at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is half a year behind because the bid process for the more than $100 million contract is in dispute.
"We've given the city a couple of ways to get out of this mess, and whether they'll take it or not, we don't know," said Jim Armstrong, one of the Foulston Siefkin attorneys working on behalf of Wichita's Dondlinger and Sons and Hunt Construction Group of Indianapolis.
That's the team that built Intrust Bank Arena.
With its bid of $99,370,542 for the airport contract, the team has the lowest bid.
The next-lowest bid is $101,500,542, which Wichita's Key Construction submitted in partnership with Walbridge, a Detroit-based contractor.
Because the terminal will be funded in part through federal grants – airport passenger facility charges and airport revenue will make up the rest – certain requirements must be met in the bids. That includes the stipulation that either 7.11 percent of the contracting business be shared with disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE), such as minority-owned firms, or that the bidders show that they made a good-faith effort to reach that percentage.
That's what's at issue in the bidding process. Dondlinger has filed a bid protest, which follows an earlier review of the DBE requirement and a motion to reconsider.
"We are firmly convinced that we did more than enough, and frankly that decision-making process is pretty subjective," Armstrong said.
In response to a request for comment, city attorney Gary Rebenstorf issued a statement that said: "That protest is under review according to the City's purchasing policy. The review process is confidential. When the review is completed, the outcome will help determine what happens next."
No one with Key Construction is commenting, but Armstrong said at the time of the initial bid that neither Key nor Dondlinger reached the 7.11 percent.
Armstrong said the city found that Key made a good-faith effort while Dondlinger did not.
"We don't know how they made that determination," Armstrong said. "From what we have been able to determine, we don't think that's a correct decision."
Armstrong said when Dondlinger made its bid, two of its DBE contractors hadn't yet been certified by the Kansas Department of Transportation, but they have now. He said that puts Dondlinger over the 7.11 percent.
"We're just at a loss to explain why this has happened, to be honest with you," Armstrong said, "because Dondlinger has been involved with the minority business community for years and has always actively participated."