Airport runway extension contract raises protests

Georgia contractor C.W. Matthews has been chosen to do site preparation for a major runway extension at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, even though it was outbid by three others for the $16 million deal, and the move has drawn protests from the lowest bidder.

The city council finance and executive committee voted to approve a resolution for the C.W. Matthews contract, and it will next go to the full council for approval.

To approve the deal with C.W. Matthews, the airport said in a resolution its decision to reject the three lowest bidders in favor of the fourth was significant, but believed it was justified.

All five bids fulfilled requirements to involve disadvantaged businesses, but the three lowest bids each had defects and were deemed non-responsive and non-responsible, according to the airport. The three disqualified bids either did not include all of the required material or were in an incomplete format, or they had problems with the contract schedule or problems with the work plan, according to a memo from Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Louis Miller to the city of Atlanta's chief procurement officer Adam Smith on the recommendation for C.W. Matthews.

The chief executive of Precision 2000, part of a joint venture that submitted the lowest bid of about $12 million, said she believes her team's bid was responsive and has sent a response letter to the city.

Choosing a higher bidder is "really a lot of money for the taxpayers," said Precision 2000 CEO Guiomar Obregon.

John Sherman, president of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, said the city should award the contract to "the lowest, highly-qualified minority bidder."

But Hartsfield-Jackson's assistant general manager for planning and development Jim Drinkard said the airport made clear during the bidding process that the evaluation would be based on the combination of a work plan narrative, a detailed schedule and price. The memo from Miller said choosing a bidder with serious defects in its work schedule and work plan "would arguably compromise the City's ability to complete this runway extension project in its entirety" and that completing the project on time is necessary for the city to fulfill its obligations to Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines in a lease agreement between the airline and the airport.