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Complaint filed over construction bid for new Air Force museum hangar

A protest has been lodged with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the award of a $35.4 million contract for the long-awaited new hangar at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, officials said.

Five companies bid on the project, which was awarded this month to Turner Construction Co. in Washington, D.C.

Museum leaders planned a spring ground breaking and a public opening in late 2015, although it’s not known if the protest might delay the project, according to museum spokesman Rob Bardua.

“Construction will not begin until the process is resolved,” he said in an email. The museum referred additional questions to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which evaluated and awarded the bid, did not release the name of the company that protested the contract. Bjorn Hale, a contract specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, said the federal agency’s lawyers were reviewing the protest, and expect to come to a conclusion in less than 30 days.

“Basically, they are making it a priority so they are bumping it to the front of the list,” Hale said.

He would not specify what the basis of the protest was, but did say “they (a bidder) had an issue with the way they were evaluated versus their price.”

The protest has delayed the Army Corps of Engineers work on the project, he said. “Basically, when a protest is filed everything is put on hold,” he said.

The other four bidders were: Archer-Western/Butt Construction Co. (JV) of Chicago, Ill.; Hensel-Phelps of Chantilly, Va.; M.A. Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis, Minn.; and Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Greenbelt, Md., according to the museum.

Representatives at each of the bidders for could not be reached for comment.

The non-profit Air Force Museum Foundation, Inc. has spent five years raising funds from major donors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies and Pratt & Whitney, among other corporate, foundation and individual donors and museum business earnings, to privately fund the expansion.

The protest will not sidetrack the construction of a life-size space shuttle crew compartment trainer or derail exhibit planning for the 224,000-square-foot expansion, according to Bardua.

The new gallery will house historic presidential aircraft and exotic, one-of-a-kind-experimental and research planes and spacecraft now in a hangar at Wright-Patterson on a limited-access portion of the base. Along with the Presidential, and Research and Development galleries, the addition will house Space and Global Reach galleries, showcasing spacecraft and globe-spanning cargo jets, among aerospace artifacts.

More than 1 million visitors a year visit the world’s largest military aviation museum, a free attraction estimated to have a $40 million economic annual impact on the Dayton region, according to Bardua. The expansion will likely boost those revenues, he indicated.

Visitors sign up for a bus ride to tour the presidential and research and development aircraft galleries, which last year attracted about 90,000 visitors. The addition would bring most of those aircraft to the main complex and increase access to hundreds of thousands.

More than half the visitors live outside Ohio and 6 percent travel from other countries, museum figures say.

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