Miami-Dade, Fla. County Set to Finish Troubled Terminal

With anticipated costs spiraling toward $2 billion, county officials Thursday took steps to take control of building the problem-plagued North Terminal at Miami International Airport.

''Some of these may not even have merit. Others may not be 100 percent the county's fault, or 100 percent American's,'' he said.

County commissioners also are being asked to approve a $12 million deal with Alpha Construction and Engineering as a consultant to evaluate the morass of claims and help assign responsibility.

The terminal construction is being funded through long-term county bonds that are paid for with revenue from the airport.

American's $105 million contribution will go toward the costs of settling outstanding claims and completing construction on the terminal. The payments will be stretched over 10 years. The county will issue bonds to pay the costs of the terminal and use American's installments to pay down the debt.

County officials believe that stepping in is the only way to prevent further problems at the North Terminal. Bonzon points to another airport project, the county-run South Terminal, as evidence. That project is coming in on time and under budget. The $850 million terminal is expected to be completed by March.

''All you have to do is look at the history,'' Bonzon said of the North Terminal project. ''This is a kitchen in need of a new chef.''


The County Commission will also have to decide whether to seek bids for a new construction management company -- which may create further controversy.

American recently sought bids for a company to run the remaining elements of the project. Parsons Transportation Group and Odebrecht Construction, a joint venture hired by the county to build the South Terminal, was the sole bidder.

Burgess recommended keeping the Parsons/Odebrecht contract, which he said was negotiated with heavy input from the county. Seeking bids over again, he said, would only add to delays.

''It will take time, and time is money,'' he said.

But Turner Austin, the current construction manager, has already voiced objections. Part of the legal team representing Turner Austin is Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, an attorney and former county commissioner, who addressed commissioners Thursday.

The terms of the contract had significantly changed since American advertised the bid, he said, meaning his client should get another shot at competing for the deal.

Considering the complexities, Bonzon said, the county ''should have had control of this in 1995'' -- a sentiment echoed by commissioners.

''This is a good lesson for the commission,'' Commissioner Dennis Moss said. ''It's a costly one, unfortunately.''

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