Amid scrutiny of contracting, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport officials have paused an effort to renew a contract for a duty-free shop operator that’s set to get a reduction in rent.
The airport now plans to wait and later seek approval of the contract extension and the rent reduction for Duty Free Americas Peachtree LLC.
City and airport officials are also facing questions about contracting delays and decisions to extend other contracts.
Councilman Andre Dickens voted against other contract extensions because the requests for renewals came after the contracts had already expired.
“This is me letting them know they’re on notice. They’ve got to do their job better, faster, and make sure that we do it in the most honest and transparent way,” Dickens said after an Atlanta City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon. He said businesses are left in a state of uncertainty when city contracting is delayed.
An Atlanta procurement official said the city is further revamping its contracting process, which has also delayed contracting for dozens of shops and restaurants across the airport. Some of the contracting has been delayed for years, but he said the process will be able to move forward soon.
“From the beginning of her administration, Mayor Bottoms made crystal clear that the City will not be rushed in the airport procurement process,” said Michael Smith, a spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, in a written statement. “Getting these contracts executed right is more important than getting them executed quickly, and it is foolish for anyone to think otherwise."
A union that represents airport concessions workers, UNITE HERE, asked City Council members to vote against the contract renewals, noting they had been struck during former Mayor Kasim Reed’s tenure.
Although the city often renews contracts under the terms allowed in leases — such as a seven-year contract with an option for a three-year extension — union representatives say they think other companies that may have union representation should have a chance to compete for the contracts at that time.
The duty-free airport shop contract has also drawn the scrutiny of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Airports are required to submit long-term exclusive leases to the FAA for review to ensure there’s appropriate participation by disadvantaged businesses, according to the agency.
The FAA said it became aware of a possible long-term, exclusive lease agreement for the duty-free concessions at Hartsfield-Jackson last year, and it contacted the airport to discuss the lease.
The airport told the FAA the duty-free lease was set to expire in early 2019.
The FAA also said this week that the airport would have to submit the extension of the contract to the FAA for review and approval.