Charleston airport panel awards controversial construction contract

A Charleston airport panel voted 4-1 Wednesday to award the controversial construction administration contract to Fentress Architects of Denver for the $200 million makeover of Charleston International’s aging terminal.

The Terminal Redevelopment and Improvement Program committee agreed to accept the architect’s negotiated lower price of $7 million with $1 million set aside to handle problems that might arise once construction begins in earnest next month. Fentress’s original bid was $9.1 million.

The contract fell into dispute last month when Michael Baker, the Columbia firm hired to manage the terminal redevelopment and expansion project, also bid on part of the work.

The Baker firm later withdrew its bid after concerns were raised that some airport board members may have tried to steer work to subcontractors in Baker’s bid. That led Charleston County Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage, a Charleston attorney, to launch an inquiry into the Baker bid. The probe is ongoing, Savage said.

Baker officials also told the airport panel Fentress’s price was too high, leading the committee to ask Fentress to work on a lower price with Baker representatives.

The panel also recommended unanimously that Terracon consulting engineering firm of North Charleston receive the inspection and testing services contract for airport construction work. The bid was $328,397.

And finally, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that Gulf Stream Construction Co. be included in the first stage of demolition and site work at the airport because it met prequalification standards.

The North Charleston firm’s inclusion raised eyebrows in March because it was involved in the 2005 dispute over the stability of the concrete The Beach Co. subsidiary was using for the parking deck. The high-profile flap was settled out of court.

The full board is expected to meet Monday to take up the panel’s recommendation.

Read more in tomorrow’s editions of The Post and Courier.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or

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