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|Alexander committed to airport project|
Congressman Rodney Alexander expressed hope a pending lawsuit would not delay a new airport terminal project in Monroe, which is scheduled to begin construction next week.
Speaking from Washington Wednesday evening, Alexander said he would work to preserve federal funding for the terminal project, should the City of Monroe miss a critical deadline on Sunday. The city is in jeopardy of losing federal funding for the airport terminal project in light of a lawsuit filed by a company that was not awarded the contract to build it.
"Whatever we can help do, we'll do," said Alexander, R-Quitman. "We'll do whatever will be necessary."
Monroe was awarded a $15 million grant by the Federal Aviation Administration. The money was designated to help offset construction of a new terminal at Monroe Regional Airport. The terminal project is projected to cost some $35 million.
The city is facing a Sunday deadline to issue a notice to proceed to Lincoln Builders of Ruston. Lincoln Builders was awarded the $35 million contract to build the new terminal.
However, a lawsuit filed by a New Orleans-based construction company, EnviroTech Services Inc., threatened that deadline and could force the city to return the grant.
EnviroTech was the apparent low bidder on the terminal project when bids were opened on June 3.
City officials declined EnviroTech's bid, though, and instead awarded the contract to Lincoln Builders of Ruston. The contract was awarded to Lincoln Builders at a special meeting of the Monroe City Council on June 12, giving the city 30 days to begin work on the project or return the money to the FAA.
Monroe City Attorney Nanci Summersgill said the city opted for the second-lowest bid because EnviroTech failed to comply with bid procedures.
Specifically, EnviroTech's bid bond did not satisfy requirements outlined by state law.
EnviroTech filed a lawsuit in 4th Judicial District Court, where attorneys representing the company contend it met state requirements to be awarded the terminal construction contract.
In the meantime, EnviroTech requested a temporary restraining order to prevent work to begin on the new terminal.
4th Judicial District Court Judge Alvin Sharp granted the request for a temporary restraining order late last week. He set a preliminary trial date for July 27.
At a court hearing on Tuesday, Sharp said he recognized the importance of moving the matter forward quickly and would rule by late Thursday (today) on the city's motion to lift the restraining order so the city can grant Lincoln Builders the green light to proceed with construction of the new terminal.
Monroe attorney Charles Jones represents EnviroTech. Jones served in the Legislature for roughly 30 years.
Also, attorneys for the NAACP were on hand in 4th Judicial District Court to represent EnviroTech. EnviroTech is a minority-owned business.
During Tuesday's hearing, Jones contended there were problems with the contract issued by the city that warranted a closer look by the court.
Jones said the Monroe City Council approved an ordinance to award the terminal contract to "Lincoln Builders Inc." According to Jones, the terminal contract was signed by "Lincoln Builders of Ruston Inc."
According to the Louisiana Secretary of State's web site, Lincoln Builders changed its name in 1992, from Lincoln Builders Inc. to Lincoln Builders of Ruston Inc.
Jones also said state law provided for fast resolution of the case because moving forward would cause "irreparable harm" to his client.
Sharp told both sides he understood the importance of moving quickly and set a Thursday evening deadline for his ruling.
That would give the city time to proceed with the contract without losing grant funding from the FAA, according to Sharp.
That's if the city wins its efforts to have the temporary restraining order lifted.
If Sharp sides with EnviroTech and refuses to lift the order, the city will miss its crucial Sunday deadline.
Summersgill said FAA officials were not hopeful of providing the city more time to comply with the terms of the grant.
Alexander said missing the deadline would be "very disappointing" because the project had been in the works for years.
"I'd hate to see it sidelined because we're so close to cutting that ribbon," Alexander said. "I hope this doesn't stop the project."
The City of Monroe scheduled a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the terminal project for Friday, July 10.