The Juneau International Airport will start recruiting for vendor service in its departure lounge because its Request for Proposals drew no takers.
Airport Manager Jeannie Johnson said the airport wants to see a company in a new vendor space operating under a two-year contract. There are just vending machines there now serving snacks, water and soft drinks.
The location may be part of the reason no proposals came through. The departure lounge is a secure zone and shuts down periodically throughout the day depending upon flight schedules.
Several entities in Juneau expressed interest in serving food in that space, however at the end of the RFP submission period, none committed.
Johnson said she plans on speaking with different business owners who initially expressed interest to find out exactly why they didn’t submit a proposal.
“I’m just disappointed,” said board member Ron Swanson.
The lack of proposals, however, isn’t dampening the spirits of airport staff — it just gives them more to do and a different way to approach the challenge.
Deputy Airport Manager Patricia deLaBruere said the lack of RFP submissions clears the way for the airport to negotiate with vendors. That means the airport can decide who would best use the available space and what they want the space to look like.
“We can actually be more of the proposal people,” she said. “We have a lot of options, actually. A bid certainly would put us in a different category.”
Johnson suspects the reason no one bid on the new area was because of the uncertainty of a two-year limited contract. Johnson and deLaBruere said the term was limited to two years because that’s when the contract will be up for other food vendors in the airport. DeLaBruere said that in other airports with multiple food vendors, the contract can be bid in a whole package, or partial.
Catherine Fritz, airport architect, said another reason for the two-year limitation was there would be a learning curve for both the airport and the vendor as the security area does shut down depending on the frequency of flights.
“We’ve never had food in a secure closure area,” she said. “There is no other model like this in town. Having this two years, it will give us the ability to understand it really well. In two years when all of the food service is available, we can have working knowledge of what will work.”
Johnson will come back to the board with several options of what could be offered — which could include specific vendor ideas or even changing the proposal request.
Board members felt more positive about the lack of submissions after the explanations that the staff can go out and negotiate for vendors to come in.
In other business, Johnson said the impact of the Federal Aviation Administration shutdown was relatively minimal.
Some portions of projects delayed slightly because of the shutdown like the runway lighting system, but the airport had luck on it’s side as it had already received grants prior to the shutdown.
Johnson said there will be no delay to the final date of the contract.
“We’re set up next month to play this game again, unfortunately,” she said.
Johnson worked with local delegates, lobbyists and others involved in the FAA shutdown to try and get them running again. She said it was an interesting process because things kept changing quickly and it seemed “every five minutes” she’d get a different e-mail with a different scenario.
Johnson also shared a story about an employee that went above and beyond the call of duty. Johnson said Larry Ramirez, one of the building custodians, became aware that one of the airport’s visitors had somehow lost their identification — in the dumpster. Ramirez went into the dumpster and retrieved the ID. She became aware of the good deed when a box of chocolates arrived at the administration office for Ramirez.
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