To pick a single project that is most important for the economic health of New Orleans, it would be a new airport terminal. It’s not only a big project — a half-billion dollars — but one that plays into the long-term viability of the vital tourism sector in the economy.
If the project is a high-dollar one, that ought to give everyone the clue that bidders for the project want it and were quite ready to squawk about the process of choosing between them.
The New Orleans Aviation Board, faced with a bitter dispute over the fairness of the evaluations of the two contractors, made the right call in restarting the process of evaluating proposals for the main contract. One bidder had been docked some points on one issue and argued that its competition should have been docked on another.
That kind of tit-for-tat complaining might well have led to a lawsuit by the ultimately losing group, so in terms of saving time, the board may have had little choice.
One of the board members struck the right note: “This is a very important decision for the city or the region,” said Doug Thornton, an executive vice president of SMG, which manages the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. “We need to remove any questions about the process.”
If the hotly competitive issue can be resolved quickly enough, it might mean that the new airport would be welcoming visitors from around the world for the 300th birthday of the city in 2018.
In an interview with editors and reporters of The New Orleans Advocate, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said it’s still his goal to make that work, but the key matter is to make sure the project is brought in without running up costs needlessly.
We agree with Landrieu that city government has seen significant improvements in his tenure in regards to how it does business with its many contractors, and that good reputation in light of former Mayor Ray Nagin’s conviction is a valuable asset for the future.
Two issues stand out, though, above all: One is the importance of a modern airport that will provide easy access to the city for its businesses and visitors. The other issue is that the board must consider its own internal processes to ensure that snafus on such a big project don’t occur.
There will be a winner and a loser in the new process. A new request for proposals has been issued. It has to be crystal clear to contractors and to citizens that the process is fair and final.