Lafayette Airport Commission ditches federal lobbyist Adams and Reese for The Picard Group, a Lafayette company that hired Rodney Alexander _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Passengers move toward the boarding area of Lafayette Regional Airport in Lafayette.

Lafayette Regional Airport Commission members started a long process Wednesday that eventually will give Lafayette air travelers a modern, expansive boarding terminal and more parking, a project that will take at least five years to complete.

“I guess the question is, where do we start?” Commissioner Tim Skinner said.

Government projects consultant Walt Adams, who was angling Wednesday for consulting work, laid out different ways to start and carry through with construction. At its most basic, the project calls for a five-gate terminal — with room to add on two more boarding gates — and more parking. Lafayette’s airport currently has three gates and a small terminal, which at times gets mighty crowded.

“One thing you want to be careful of is not outsourcing your vision,” Adams told commissioners. “There are a lot of people out there willing to spend your money.”

Lafayette Parish voters said yes Saturday to taxing themselves 1 cent for eight months next year for every dollar they spend on goods. The tax, which will be levied April 1 until Nov. 30 on goods and services except groceries and prescriptions, is expected to bring in $35 million to $37 million. That money will be added to debt proceeds and airport grants from federal and state sources to reach $90 million to expand the airport terminal and add other improvements.

“We know what we need,” Commissioner Paul Segura said, “but we need some assistance in assembling the path.”

Engineers from the Baton Rouge office of international engineering and design firm URS already have put hours into preliminary design. Two URS officials, Bill Griffin and Richard Speer, told the commission they hoped their upfront work wouldn’t be wasted.

“I very much encourage you not to do away with that whole process,” Griffin said.

Adams said the different design-and-build routes commissioners could take include an approach called CMAR, or construction manager at risk. That process involves choosing an architect-design firm and also a construction company to attack the project together from the beginning.

Or, Adams said, the project could be in the more traditional design-build or design-bid-build, which each have advantages and disadvantages.

Adams said a project of the terminal’s scope and value needs a coordinator with years of projects on his or her ré sumé.

“You’ve got a symphony of projects going on here,” he said. “At least in the beginning, I am the conductor. I don’t play any instruments.”

The airport’s seven commissioners also will consider a citizen panel to weigh in with ideas on how to make the entire process of flying in and out of Lafayette more enjoyable.

Adams said the most beautiful, artsy, comfortable terminal in the world would not be adequate if travelers’ experience once they left the airport was dismal. Airports need good taxis, vehicle rentals within short walks, lanes into and out of the airports lined with aesthetics, and readable, helpful signs to help travelers get to their destinations.

Commission Chairman Matt Cruse said appointees to the panel could include officials from various organizations and government agencies, such as the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and Louisiana Economic Development.