Contract debated by airport board

FAIRMONT – At a special meeting Wednesday, the airport advisory board weighed in on the pros and cons of the four firms: TKDA, KLJ, DGR and Bolton & Menk vying for the consultant position at the airport. Bolton & Menk currently holds the contract, which is due to expire at the end of this month.

In order to qualify for funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, the airport must have a contracted consultant who receives a percentage of the cost of any airport projects.

“I was very impressed with all of the proposals,” said Dennis Turner, chairman of the citizens board. “They put in a lot of additional work. It wasn’t just a rubber stamp.”

Turner supported Bolton & Menk as his top choice, citing how the firm “stepped up to fix past mistakes.”

Those past mistakes were the reason advisory board member Dustin Wiederhoeft chose St. Paul-based TKDA for his first choice.

“I think it’s time for some new blood,” he said.

Bolton & Menk currently are operating on a one-year extention of the original contract. Last year, the airport board initially recommneded TKDA for city council approval, but some members later waffled on the choice, changing their support to Bolton & Menk.

The council opted to extend the Bolton & Menk contract for one year to allow time to correct some of its design isssues, such as water running under the doors into airport hangars and standing water in certain areas. TKDA also received the first-place endorsement from board member Kate Hawkins, who said she spent several hours studying all four firms’ proposals.

“This was hard,” she said, drawing agreement from fellow board members. Board member Bruce Peters gave Bolton & Menk a “poor” rating for its past performance.

“TKDA, in my opinion, is vastly superior,” he said.

Peters countered his endorsement by noting that Bolton & Menk has an office in Fairmont.

“That’s a component we need to be mindful of. There’s merit there. That should be some degree of consideration,” he said.

Although he is a non-voting member of the citizens board, airport manager Lee Steinkamp offered his view.

“I’m just not that impressed (with Bolton & Menk), based on past experiences,” he said.

Hawkins recommended interviewing all four candidates.

“We know what doesn’t work. We know what we want to work,” she said, adding that a face-to-face presentation might offer a clearer choice.

The board will interview the candidates on Tuesday, allowing each firm time for a presentation and to answer any questions from the advisory board members. Following the presentations, the board will vote on which firm to recommend to the city council for the contract.