The apparent front-runner in the contest to build Louis Armstrong International Airport’s new terminal defended its proposal and an evaluation committee’s favorable ranking of it Tuesday, arguing in a letter to the airport’s board that a challenge to that recommendation should be tossed out.
In a response to a formal protest against the committee’s recommendation, Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro argued that the committee had the latitude to determine that the Hunt Gibbs proposal met all the criteria laid out by the New Orleans Aviation Board. It said the committee’s scoring was appropriate.
The letter came in response to a formal protest filed Monday by NOLA Airport Builders, the other joint venture competing for the job.
Both the protest and the response mirror the arguments between basically the same two groups that followed an earlier set of evaluations in which NOLA Airport Builders, then known as Parsons-Odebrecht, won the recommendation of another committee in a process that drew a formal complaint from Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro.
Much of the latest Hunt Gibbs response seeks to undermine arguments by NOLA Airport Builders that the Hunt Gibbs proposal did not meet the criteria laid out in the Aviation Board’s request for proposals to build the new $546.5 million terminal.
That defense includes a claim that NOLA Airport Builders’ interpretation of the request for proposals would actually disqualify both firms because the employees they would use on the project do not have the right qualifications.
In addition, Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro argued that the evaluation committee had the ability to subjectively determine which group would do a better job of employing so-called “disadvantaged businesses” owned by women or minorities. It also argued that the committee decided appropriately that Hunt Gibbs’ proposal was the best value for the airport, contrary to claims by NOLA Airport Builders that touted the value of its own proposal.
The letter also dismissed a suggestion that committee member Kenneth Schwartz, an architecture professor at Tulane University, was biased by the fact that Boh Bros. Chairman Robert Boh formerly served on the university’s board. The response said there’s no evidence Schwartz knew that Boh had been a board member and that Schwartz’s wife, who is also a Tulane professor, in fact served on the previous version of the evaluation committee and favored Parsons-Odebrecht’s proposal.
The Aviation Board is expected to formally hear the protest at its regular meeting on Thursday. The board could select a firm to build the terminal at the same meeting.
When presented with a similar situation after the earlier evaluation voting, the Aviation Board chose to scrap the first round of proposals and start over. That decision, however, came as community groups drew attention to a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against a member of the Parson-Odebrecht team and as questions were raised about connections between a member of the evaluation committee and Parsons, which had employed him in the past.