The Wichita City Council is scheduled to hear the final administrative appeal Tuesday in the controversy surrounding the bids for the $100 million Wichita Mid-Continent Airport terminal.
Wichita-based Dondlinger & Sons Construction and its partner, Hunt Construction Groupof Indianapolis, are protesting their disqualification from the terminal bid. Dondlinger/Hunt’s bid of $99.4 million was the lowest submitted, $2 million lower than Wichita’s Key Construction and Michigan-based Wallbridge.
Tuesday’s hearing is expected to begin around 10:30 a.m. and last two hours.
City officials have ruled that the Dondlinger team did not make a good-faith effort to land enough federally required disadvantaged-business subcontractors for the project, and are prepared to turn the project over to Key/Wallbridge.
Dondlinger/Hunt wants the council to uphold its appeal and either award the firm the terminal contract or else agree to rebid it, actions city officials contend will jeopardize the FAA funding and effectively kill the project.
Wyatt Hoch, the Dondlinger attorney, said this week he continues to think the project should be rebid, and will address the city’s claim that a rebid would threaten the FAA’s $53 million share of the project. Dondlinger/Hunt has not ruled out the possibility of a lawsuit if the appeal fails.
Hoch said city officials turned down his request this week for a delay until July 24, and ordered that copies of his evidence in the appeal hearing be made available to council members last Friday.
Central to the debate is the deadline for landing those disadvantaged subcontractors. City officials and attorneys say the deadline is clear: the Feb. 24 bid opening date.
But Dondlinger officials argue that as the low bidder, they were required to certify only that they would commit to meeting the goal — which they say they met with the addition of two disadvantaged-business contractors whose deals were inadvertently omitted from the original bid, and two more who have since become certified.
The two late certifications — Contect and Central Plains Stucco — didn’t apply for certification from the Kansas Department of Transportation until at least a month after the bid opening, city officials said.
FAA officials have concurred in writing with the city’s decision to award Key/Wallbridge the terminal contract, and have argued, again in writing, against any restoration of the low bid to Dondlinger.
The airport construction project is estimated to last three years. City officials this summer are adding a new security checkpoint to the current terminal to ease boarding backlogs while the new terminal is under construction.