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City Council OKs airport engineering contract

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council has authorized city staff to negotiate a five-year professional services agreement with a consultant for airport engineering and planning services after council members asked a few questions related to the agreement.

Council member Ron Christianson said he was unaware of the agreement until he read in the Tribune last weekend that the agreement was on the council's Monday night agenda. He asked why the agreement with Bolton and Menk was not first brought through a committee.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the agreement was not brought through the Public Works/Safety Committee because the committee has not met during the past several weeks.

"We moved forward and brought it to council because of that,'' Stevens said.

Also, Christianson asked if a bidding process was used to select consultants for interviews and who served on the interview committee.

Public Works Director Holly Wilson said she, the planning director, the airport manager and finance director reviewed statements of qualifications submitted by five firms. They reviewed and scored submittals based on desired skills and qualifications and selected two firms for interviews April 11 by the same four people, plus the Airport Commission chairman.

Wilson said Bolton and Menk was recommended because the firm scored the highest in both the proposal and interview process.

"There was no bid per se for the statement of qualifications because it was a statement of qualifications,'' said Wilson. "No dollars were exchanged at this time. It is merely based on qualifications for the airport services.''

The consultant's fee for engineering services will be paid from state and federal grants and would be built into the overall cost of projects.

Wilson said the city is overdue for this process. She said it's time to renew because HNTB, the consultant on the new airport project, has exceeded its five-year contract. The new airport opened in September 2006.

City officials say the Federal Aviation Administration advises cities to have a consulting engineer to provide professional services on airport projects as a requirement to receive FAA grants.

Officials say the city needs a consultant who is familiar with airports because airports have specific requirements for things such as runway pavement and lights. Also, the consultant would update the airport layout plan for changes in things such as buildings and land use.

Jared Voge, project manager in Bolton and Menk's Willmar office, said work orders will be prepared as projects arise and will be brought to the council for approval. Those will identify the project and cost and include engineering fees and timelines.

Council member Rick Fagerlie asked if Bolton and Menk will work on development of the former airport into an industrial park.

Voge said his firm will provide any aviation services requested by the city or Airport Commission.

The industrial park project cannot proceed, however, until FAA releases the land to the city.

Stevens said the city has submitted all the documentation for the first phase of the land release and is about to submit documentation for the second phase of the land release.

"The FAA is doing their internal review and they have yet to give us a timeline for completion of that review despite multiple requests,'' said Stevens.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150