FAIRMONT - A local company will get a second chance to earn a contract with the city's airport, following a split vote Monday by Fairmont City Council.
Bolton & Menk has provided the airport's engineering services for 15-plus years, but the airport advisory board recently voted 3-1 to give the next five-year contract to TKDA.
The council was presented with three options on Monday:
o To approve TKDA as the airport consultant;
o To approve Bolton & Menk as the consultant;
o To ask the advisory board to gather more information by conducting interviews with the two consultants and then bringing a second recommendation back to the council.
Usually the council accepts its advisory board's recommendations with minimal questioning, but it seems some advisory board members are having second thoughts about their vote, and want another chance to think it over. This is according to Councilman Darin Rahm and Mayor Randy Quiring, who say they were contacted privately by airport board members.
City administrator Mike Humpal acknowledged that city staff did not believe interviews with the two engineering firms were necessary, based on the comprehensive proposals each submitted.
"That was maybe staff oversight," he said.
Councilman Terry Anderson, who serves as council liaison for the airport board, sat in on the discussion and later did some research on the two companies.
"They're both reputable firms," he said.
TKDA of St. Paul does have an impressive resume, he noted, with multiple awards for its aviation projects. Its experience includes small airports like Fairmont's, to international hub airports, to military bases.
Bolton & Menk, on the other hand, has worked successfully with the city for many years, and the company has an office in Fairmont.
Anderson does not believe the council should send the contract back to the airport advisory for further consideration.
"A lot of pressure will be put on people [who] don't need that to be on them," he said.
The mayor agreed it isn't easy to go against a commission, but he disagreed with Anderson on sending the recommendation back.
"If we neglected to ask these firms to come speak ... we should have done that," he said, while also pointing out that Anderson was previously advocating for more bids to go to local bidders.
"I was the other one here that day pounding my fist about keeping things local," said Councilman Joe Kallemeyn.
"If I had two firms that were nearly equal, that would be the tipping point for me," he said.
But he was not convinced the airport board recommendation should be sent back, not until he heard that more than one board member made the request.
Kallemeyn made a motion to have the board get more information by conducting interviews within the next 60 days. The vote passed 3-1, with Anderson dissenting. Voting in favor were Kallemeyn, Rahm and Chad Askeland.
Askeland said he hated to go against the airport advisory's recommendation, but "I really think I would have a hard time hiring a firm ... without meeting them in person."
In other business, the council:
o Approved the 2013 improvement plan, which includes reconstruction of Elm Street, from First Street to the railroad tracks. The assessment is $75 per frontage foot.
Other street improvements include resurfacing portions of Cardinal Street, Cedar Park Road, Roland Avenue and Southwood Drive. The assessment is $50 per frontage foot. Overlay of Parkwood Place, from East Amber Lake to the dead end was approved, for which the assessment is $30 per frontage foot.
Sealcoating will take place throughout the city, with property owners to be assessed $2 per frontage foot.
Resident Verlus Burkhart questioned why the city is sealcoating North Main Street, since the street was reconstructed just a few years ago.
Public works director Troy Nemmers said the city typically sealcoats a road five years after it is reconstructed, simply as preventative maintenance.
o Approved a parade permit for United Methodist Church Ecumenical Way of the Cross Prayer Walk on March 29.
o Approved a temporary on-sale liquor license for a Martin County Preservation Association fundraiser April 26-27.
o Approved renewing consumption and display license applications for Chain of Lakes Yacht Club and the Fraternal Order of Eagles 3394.
o Approved an addendum to an agreement between the city and Martin County Library, clarifying that the county is responsible for improvements, additional or replacement equipment and furnishings.