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FAA rejects bid proposals for new airport terminal

ALBANY, Ga. -- A request for bids has been released again after the Federal Aviation Administration tossed out previous bids because contractors failed to meet federal standards requiring good faith efforts to use minority subcontractors.

The city of Albany is currently trying to undertake a $15.8 million joint venture with the FAA to build a new apron, airport terminal and other improvements at Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.

While the apron improvements are just weeks from starting, bids for phase two of the project -- construction of the new terminal -- were disqualified by the FAA when federal officials said that contractors bidding on the job didn't go far enough to hire minority-owned sub contractors, Airport Director Yvette Aehle said.

"They looked at the two lowest bids that were returned and found that both of them had reported zero percent use of DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) subcontractors ... so their good faith efforts fell short of the 14 percent goal set for that particular project," Aehle said.

The FAA subsequently disqualified all nine bids, forcing the city to redo the bid process. They officially went out for bids Monday.

"We're going to try it again and this time, we're going to tell the primes (contractors), 'you all have to get it right this time,' and try and help them understand the rules for bidding on a federal contract," Aehle said.

According to Aehle, the two top bidders said they're good faith effort came in so low because few DBE certified subcontractors had expressed interest in bidding on the project and the ones who did, had bids that they felt were too high.

In order to benefit from the federal regulations that are designed to help prevent discrimination in the marketplace by keeping access to the bidding process open to minorities, a subcontractor must be registered with the Georgia Department of Transportation's DBE certification process.

That process -- while lengthy and cumbersome -- is the only way that minority subcontractors can be assured of being on the list of DBE subs that the primes use to meet their good faith efforts, Aehle said.

The rebid will likely delay the project, which Aehle says now likely won't be completely finished until 2013, but shouldn't jeopardize FAA funding, which makes up the lion's share of the $15.8 million project, Aehle said.

Airport officials will have a pre-bid conference with those interested in making bids on the building Feb. 10. Contractors will then have until the March 24 bid opening to get their bids in, she said.

Aehle said she's hopeful to have the top bid proposals to the city commission for approval by April with, assuming there are no more hang-ups, construction likely to start at some point during the summer.