The Friedman Memorial Airport Authority board on Tuesday reluctantly approved a $2.27 million contract with Knife River Corp. to do Phase I of a two-year airport construction project this fall and next spring.
The work will primarily involve adding pavement to strengthen an apron on the north side of the Atlantic Aviation building to allow large private planes to park there after they lose parking space on the south side of the building due to relocation of the airport’s west-side taxiway.
Knife River was the lowest of four bidders for the project. State law requires all political entities to award contracts for major projects to the lowest bidder.
The company recently completed repaving projects on state Highway 75 and on Woodside Boulevard in Hailey. Both were plagued by delays. The reasons for the Woodside delays are in dispute.
“This is a company that has a poor performance record in our county,” board member and County Commissioner Larry Schoen said.
Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle, also a board member, said the Hailey city attorney had found 41 lawsuits filed since 2007 in which Knife River or a company acquired by Knife River were the plaintiff.
“I can’t sit here on this board and not say what I know about Knife River,” Haemmerle said. “When I look at a plaintiff party in 41 cases, I have to be concerned. I understand that the process won’t allow me to vote against them, but if I could, I would.”
Project engineer Dave Mitchell of T-O Engineers said Knife River had successfully completed two projects at the Boise airport, and his firm was familiar with working with the company. However, he added that Western Construction, which submitted a bid only $3,882 higher than Knife River’s, was an unusually good contractor.
Board members took some solace from the fact that Knife River’s bid lists Valley Paving in Bellevue as the paving subcontractor. Bert Heath, division manager for Issaquah, Wash.,-based Lakeside Industries, which owns Valley Paving, said no contract had yet been signed with Knife River, but his company had been told that it would do all the paving for the project.
The contract includes a penalty of $2,500 per day if work is not completed as scheduled. It also allows the airport to replace Knife River with another contractor on seven days notice if the firm falls behind schedule.
“That’s our biggest muscle,” Airport Authority attorney Barry Luboviski said in an interview. “I feel we’re pretty well covered. We’ll have guys on the site every day.”
Knife River spokesman Tony Spilde said the company was happy to have received the contract.
“We know how important the airport is to the Sun Valley area,” he said. “We intend to make improvements that the airport board and the community can both be proud of.”
Along with strengthening the apron, Phase I will include constructing new taxilanes to allow planes to reach T-hangars from the west side after relocation of the west-side taxiway obliterates the current taxilane access from the east. That work will be done in spring 2014.
Authority board members discussed rejecting all bids on the grounds that even the lowest was $157,000 over budget, and doing all of Phase I in the spring, but decided that that was too risky a time frame.
The board’s approval of the contract included direction to airport staff to bring the project within budget or obtain additional federal grant money. The Phase I work is being funded 93.75 percent by Airport Improvement Program grants administered by the Federal Aviation Administration and 6.25 percent by the airport.