Airport renovations on hold due to contract controversy

Charleston International Airport renovations (Dave MacQueen/WCIV)

By Sonya

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Charleston International Airport will be undergoing renovations along with an expansion. When? Well, that's the question.

The contract for the work was awarded to Hitt Contracting Incorporated by the Charleston County Aviation Authority, but another company, Holder Construction, is questioning that decision.

"There is a controversy about the selection process," said Arnold Goodstein with the Charleston County Aviation Authority council. "The board chose who they thought was number one, and they had the final authority to make that choice. That's the position that the board took. Now, the protester has claimed that we deviated from our own policy, and then the question is what is our policy. This panel will make the decision about this issue."

Both sides were allowed to argue their case to the panel on Thursday.

"What we want is a level playing field and what Holder wants is to be given the opportunity to do this job, because the professionals who were hired to asses all the candidates decided that Holder is the best qualified company to do it. We very much want to do this job," said Thomas Hildebrand, attorney for Holder Construction.

The attorneys for Hitt Contracting declined to speak with us on camera, but they did say that they agree with the original decision of the Aviation Authority.

And a protest like this isn't that uncommon in construction bids.

"But what's uncommon here is that typically, in a bid dispute, it's between the number one and number two, and usually it's really tight and there are some technicalities," Hildebrand said. "Here it's between a number one, who according to the rankings, is Holder. And a number four, who according to all the assessments was number four.

The bottom line is that the contract is very important to the Charleston area.

"This is a rehabilitation of the terminal," Goodstein said. "This is adding on additional gates, six gates. Right now, because of the increase in passengers here at Charleston International, we have got a need for more gates and more room."

The $150 million project should take approximately two years to complete.

The three members of the Aviation Authority that heard the appeal Thursday have up to 30 days to make a decision on who will be awarded the contract to complete the airport expansion and renovation.

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