Dondlinger and Sons disputes bid process for $100 million airport contract

UPDATED — The scheduled start of construction on a new terminal at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is months behind because the bid process for the contract, worth around $100 million, is in dispute.

Dondlinger and Sons is the lowest bidder, but the contract may be awarded to Key Construction instead because the city doesn’t think Dondlinger met the requirements for building the terminal.

The planned two-level, 273,000-square-foot terminal – which will feature 12 gates, each with a passenger loading bridge, more efficient passenger and baggage security screening, baggage claim and airline ticketing systems – initially was projected to be done in late 2014 or 2015. Due to the dispute, that’s likely to be pushed back.

“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 Dondlinger and Hunt Construction Group of Indianapolis.

That’s the team that built Intrust Bank Arena.

It bid $99,370,542 for the airport contract.

Key, in partnership with Detroit-based contractor Walbridge, bid $101,500,542.

The Wichita City Council, which will make the final decision on the contract, was updated on the dispute during an executive session Tuesday.

“This is a monstrous decision,” City Council member Pete Meitzner said. “It affects the next 50 years of the terminal and our city.”

He added: “It is a decision that I am not taking lightly. … It just needs to be fair and the right decision.”

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, both requested by Dondlinger.

“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 that at the time of the initial bid, 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.”

Read More »

Boeing leaves Wichita Mid-Continent Airport ahead of full departure

WICHITA — After at least a decade greeting passengers at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, the large Boeing display showcasing the company’s various plane models through the years has been removed.

Valerie Wise, the airport’s air service and business development manager, says Boeing removed the display. This is about two years before Boeing – whose 85-year history here helped the city become the Air Capital of the World – will be completely gone from Wichita.

Wise says Clear Channel has temporarily installed an Air Capital of the World display until Spirit AeroSystems, which is now going to lease the space, can ready its own display.


You don’t say

“I’m all for the government saving money, but please leave the air conditioning turned on.”

—  Consultant Jim Gregory, one of the many people suffering through air conditioning problems at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport today

Shanannigans on South Oliver is closed; West Street to reopen with liquor license renewal

WICHITA — Shanannigans on South Oliver has permanently closed, and the one on West Street has temporarily closed while owner Dean Bratt awaits a liquor license renewal.

“It’s ridiculous,” he says of the wait.

Bratt says he submitted a renewal for the license three weeks ago.

“The airport got their license back right away,” he says of HMSHost recently forgetting to renew at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Tom Groneman, director of the Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, says he can’t go into details, but “we did not have everything we needed” from Bratt.

Read More »

HMSHost didn’t get special treatment in liquor-license renewal, ABC official says

WICHITA — It didn’t take long for HMSHost to get its liquor license back after inadvertently letting it lapse at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, where it couldn’t serve alcohol the first five days of March.

Businesses typically are supposed to allow 30 days for renewal.

In this case, says Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division director Tom Groneman, the licensing department “rushed it through.”

But Groneman says HMSHost didn’t get special treatment that other businesses wouldn’t be eligible for.

“We do it quite routinely,” Groneman says. “We do it more often than not.”

But not always.

Groneman says it makes a difference if a business has been late renewing before and whether its taxes are up to date.

“It depends on a lot of things.”

Allegiant Air ticket counter moves for more room

WICHITA — Allegiant Air has a roomier new counter at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

“We moved them just because it was less congested,” says Valerie Wise, Wichita Airport Authority air service and business development manager.

Allegiant had been on the far west end of the ticket counter next to Delta Air Lines.

But Delta has 11 daily departures, and when Allegiant had departures, too, it got to be too crowded.

Now Allegiant is on the other side of Delta, where there is more space.

“Basically it’s to provide better customer service,” Wise says.

You don’t say

“I just thought to myself . . . only in Wichita, Kansas, USA, would you get your iPod back.”

— Former Wichitan Forrest Gossett, now with Boeing in St. Louis, who lost his iPod in Wichita Mid-Continent Airport last week and had it returned from a newsstand employee named Edna (whom Gossett calls “just the sweetest, nicest woman in the world”)

You don’t say

“You hate to make a decision for a 50-year project based on yesterday’s headlines.”

— Director of airports Victor White on why declining passenger numbers this year at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport shouldn’t impact the decision to build a new terminal building

“Bruno” is on Victor White’s summer movie list

brunoWICHITA — “Bruno” debuts July 10, but that doesn’t concern director of airports Victor White.

“I’m not worried about it,” he says.

That’s even though Bruno, better known as actor Sacha Baron Cohen, shot a silly scene at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport after a film crew duped airport staff to get in.

“I can’t imagine they’d include it,” White says of the innocuous video.

Unlike some of Baron Cohen’s antics when he played the character Borat in another film, his new Austrian fashion photographer character “didn’t really create a disturbance to speak of of any kind.”

It did get a lot of worldwide attention, though, thanks to YouTube.

“It was just amazing,” White says.

The Sunday Times in London just mentioned the airport in a June 7 story, and the airport video is on the official Bruno Web site.

White plans to see the movie.

“Of course I will,” he says. “It’s going to be fun.”

He likens it to listening to Howard Stern.

“You may not admit that you like it, but you still listen to it.”