Bidding process for new airport terminal challenged by losing bidder — again

So much for a fresh start.

The team of companies passed over by a selection committee in the second round of bidding on the $546.5 million contract to build a new terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport has filed a protest with the New Orleans Aviation Board.

The complaint, filed by NOLA Airport Builders, marks the second time the joint venture not recommended by a selection committee has protested the panel’s decision. In May, it was competitor Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro crying foul when a different committee recommended the NOLA group for the job.

The Aviation Board responded in June by tossing out that round of bids, saying a fresh start was needed to ensure the process wouldn’t devolve into a contentious — and probably litigious — dispute.

But Monday’s filing makes it apparent that neither team is ready to go down without a fight in the battle for the giant public contract, on which the Aviation Board is scheduled to vote later this week.

NOLA Airport Builders, which applied in the previous round under the name Parsons-Odebrecht, said in its protest Monday that in four instances the Hunt Gibbs group didn’t provide the documentation proving team members met the contract requirements, which alone should have disqualified it.

But NOLA also said its own credentials in two categories — cost and participation by disadvantaged businesses — weren’t scored correctly by the committee. NOLA said the percentages it submitted for participation by woman- and minority-owned businesses and the dollar figures showing how much of the contract would be dedicated to actual construction both were higher than those submitted by Hunt Gibbs.

“The review committee, however, inexplicably and incorrectly scored NOLA lower than HGBM for those categories,” attorneys for NOLA wrote in their petition.

The NOLA protest also said Hunt Gibbs’ submission in the first round didn’t meet all the requirements and that the Aviation Board violated public bid law when it threw out the scoring committee’s recommendation in June.

The two groups’ original proposals actually tied in the evaluation committee’s first scoring vote, setting up a second tally in which Hunt Gibbs’ score dropped, making Parsons-Odebrecht — the previous incarnation of NOLA Airport Builders — the winner.

After that round was thrown out, Hunt Gibbs did not significantly alter its proposal, while Parsons-Odebrecht shored up its minority contracting credentials while also changing its name.

NOLA also complained that one of the scoring committee members is dean of the Tulane School of Architecture, and that Robert H. Boh, the chairman of Boh Bros. Construction — one of the four companies making up Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro — is an emeritus member of Tulane’s board and “it appears the university receives considerable support from the Boh family.”

A spokeswoman for Boh Bros. said that as an emeritus member, Robert Boh isn’t active on the Tulane board and hasn’t been to a board meeting since 1993.

Spokeswoman Ann Barks also noted that while the company has made donations to Tulane’s former School of Engineering and the new football stadium, it has not given anything to the School of Architecture.

The Aviation Board is scheduled to take up the selection committee’s recommendation Thursday.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said he wants to see the terminal completed in time for the city’s tricentennial celebration in 2018, although the delay in picking a contractor has placed that goal in doubt.