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Monday, July 6, 2009

Hartsfield-Jackson contract: damned either way

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It's a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't, but especially damned if you do-over.

Today, the Council is scheduled to approve the city's single largest contract — an action some Atlanta officials fear will only result in protracted legal wrangling.

The management contract for Hartsfield-Jackson Airport's 30,000 parking spaces is the Big Kahuna of city contracts, generating more than $100 million in annual revenue, of which the private contractor can expect to pocket about $22 million.

For the last few generations, that contractor was Pennsylvania-based Parking Co. of America — one of the most conspicuous holdovers from the not-altogther-bygone era of City Hall history in which favored companies saw their contracts quietly renewed year after year without a formal bidding process.

Earlier this year, the city decided to hold competitive bids for the parking contract. But, apparently the airport staff was a little rusty on bid evaluation and it screwed up the process before a winner was announced. So the contract was re-bid.

This time, the announced winner was Chicago-based Standard Parking Co. According to the Atlanta Bidness Chronicle, two of the losing bidders — Nashville-based Central Parking Systems and ATL Airpark, a consortium of local companies led by Lanier Parking — have already filed official protests against the result.

Hartsfield GM Ben DeCosta maintains that the second bid process was air-tight and and will withstand legal challenges. Maybe he's right, but some in City Hall are already bracing for the costly lawsuits. At this point, there's little the Council can do but approve the contract and deal with the fallout.

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