LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A divided City Council voted Tuesday to approve a controversial $272 million contract to replace the nearly half-century-old facility that heats and cools Los Angeles International Airport.
Clark/McCarthy Joint Venture, based in Costa Mesa, was tapped to build a state-of-the-art Central Utility Plant that will regulate temperatures at passenger terminals, administrative offices, the spaceship-shaped Theme Building and other structures within the LAX Central Terminal Area and the Bradley West Project, which is still under construction.
Nine of the council’s 15 members voted in favor of the contract after extensive debate.
Councilman Dennis Zine recused himself in the wake of media reports that he was dating a lobbyist for Tutor-Perini, Veronica Becerra, who had persuaded the council last month to delay voting on the contract with Clark/McCarthy.
Four other council members — Richard Alarcon, Tony Cardenas, Ed Reyes and Jan Perry — voted against the deal, saying there were flaws in the bidding process.
“I would move we allow Tutor-Perini to get back into the process, to redo the process for final, final consideration, and then come back with a final determination based on all the information,” Alarcon said.
“(This is) not to slow down the process, but just to have the final, final understanding. If they (Tutor-Perini) are irresponsible, you (LAX officials) need to tell us. And (you’re not telling) me this, you’re just making accusations.”
Valeria Velasco, acting president of the Board of Airport Commissioners, defended the bidding process.
“I urge you to trust the process,” she told the council. “Of course, there are inadequacies in everything that we do in life, but the process is a strong process and there is no bias against Tutor-Perini. It was a fair process.”
Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that operates LAX, said Tutor-Perini’s contract proposal “did not make the grade.”
When the Board of Airport Commissioners approved the contract in November, LAWA Deputy Executive Director for Airport Development Roger Johnson said, “The new state-of-the-art Central Utility Plant will make our terminals more comfortable for travelers while saving energy and safeguarding the environment.”
“We are essentially conducting open-heart surgery on LAX in order to meet heating and cooling demands as we modernize the airport,” he added.
The new facility will be located east of the existing one, which is west of the Theme Building.
The existing Central Utility Plant will be demolished.
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