County may take over airport terminal project
By Sherri C. Ranta
Completion of the North Terminal at Miami International Airport could fall into Miami-Dade County hands if negotiations fail between American Airlines and the lone bidder for the work.
American and county officials began negotiations with Parsons-Odebrecht Joint Venture early this month after the airline rejected the company's $500 million bid as too high, said John Cosper, Miami International's deputy aviation director.
The project budget was set last year at $388.7 million.
"The hope is to reach an agreement," he said. "American asked us to do this. It probably is the most expeditious way to keep the project moving."
When the bid was rejected, Gilberto Neves, executive vice president of Odebrecht Construction, said the joint venture likely would not spend more money to submit a second bid. Instead, company officials wanted to negotiate with American, he said, based on the existing proposal.
If an agreement between Parsons-Odebrecht and American Airlines cannot be reached, Mr. Cosper said, the county is "on a parallel track" to determine what it needs to do to put its own contracts out for bid to complete the $1.5 billion North Terminal.
A determination about when the county might take over is still up in the air, he said.
Representatives of American, the county and Parsons-Odebrecht are meeting several times a week. An agreement between American and Parsons-Odebrecht is not imminent, he said, as discussions are "too preliminary."
"We're reviewing where the project is right now, understanding what has been finished, what's been built, what needs to be done," Mr. Cosper said. Since the county is involved, he said, officials are leaning toward allowing public access to the process.
No deadline is set for American and Parsons-Odebrecht to make a deal, and Mr. Cosper said last week that it was too early to evaluate progress toward an agreement.
In the meantime, he said, work continues on the North Terminal, and officials hope to open two new gates by June.
American consolidated North Terminal work into one bid package late last year rather than create numerous smaller contracts. At one point, American Airlines was considering 100 different bid packages for the work.
The county hoped the move to consolidate would enable American to make one contractor responsible for meeting schedules, dates and budgets. But Parsons-Odebrecht was the only bidder, at a price far exceeding what was budgeted.
Interim Aviation Director Carlos Bonzon, County Manager George Burgess and American officials continue to discuss the finances, Mr. Cosper said. Construction of the North Terminal, under American Airlines oversight, is as much as $256 million over budget.
Mr. Cosper said he expects American to continue to be involved in the project even if the county takes authority over the construction contract.
"I don't think they're going to wash their hands of it in any sense," he said. "It's still their terminal, they'll still be involved in the day-to-day management."