City Council approves firm for air service consulting

Could commercial airline service to Denver, Colorado, from Roswell be coming in the near future? The Roswell City Council has approved awarding a contract to continue the efforts to establish the new route. This photo of the Denver International Airport is provided by the airport. (Submitted Photo)

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A consulting firm that has been working with the Roswell Air Center to establish a new route to Denver, Colorado, has passed an initial step to receive a new contract.

The Roswell City Council voted 9-0 Thursday to approve awarding the contract to Mead & Hunt Inc., a national architectural and engineering firm with 40 offices in the United States.

City Manager Joe Neeb now can enter into contract negotiations with the firm.

Air Center Director Scott Stark explained to city councilors that the firm had worked with the Air Center for about two years to create a new commercial airline route to Denver that would be in addition to the existing routes to and from Dallas, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona, provided by American Airlines.

Stark said the firm has assisted the city as its applied for and obtained a Small Community Air Service Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help establish a new route. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, stopping most U.S. commercial air service for a year.

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“The city has been able, through good consultations with Mead & Hunt and our own efforts to both stay engaged with United and continue to keep the conversation going for the Denver flight, as well as to intervene on the issues that came up with American, to keep our American service.”

Because of the pandemic, American Airlines at one point considered halting all air service to Roswell Air Center. While it did stop the Phoenix flights and reduce the Dallas flights for some time, American decided to provide some Dallas flights throughout the pandemic.

Because the original one-year contract and one-year extension with Mead & Hunt had expired, the city and Air Center had issued a Request for Proposals on May 23. The submitted responses were opened June 15, with three found to meet the proposal requirements. The other two firms were Flare Aviation Consulting, based in Miami, Florida, and Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, based in Springfield, Illinois.

An evaluation committee ranked Mead & Hunt with a 97 score, with the next closest score to that being a 61. The group recommended awarding a contract to Mead & Hunt, and the Roswell City Council Legal Committee agreed 4-0 on June 24 with its decision.

In its award report, the evaluation committee noted that Mead & Hunt had experience with Roswell; had a record of success with similar-sized airports; had existing relationships with several airlines such as American, United and SkyWest; and submitted what was deemed the “more cost-effective proposal” because of the firm’s familiarity with the commercial air routes and markets affecting Roswell.

Councilor Juan Oropesa did express some concerns because the information provided councilors did not provide any type of fees or cost information.

“To me, it seems like we should have had some kind of information to show us what is the maximum amount that the city manager will be allowed to negotiate with,” Oropesa said.

Neeb and City Attorney Parker Patterson explained that proposals, unlike bids, do not make pricing information public before the contract has been negotiated. The fees for types of services were included in the firm’s proposal response and known to evaluation committee members, Stark added.

Councilor Jacob Roebuck also noted that Neeb is not obligated to enter a contract with Mead & Hunt if an agreement cannot be reached regarding expected costs.

A Mead & Hunt employee said that the company anticipates negotiating the contract for the next couple of weeks. Digital Marketing Specialist Candace Gosney also said that additional information about the Denver route could not be provided.

“Recruitment efforts with any airline are usually confidential, per the airlines’ request,” she said, “so no comment on any talks with any airline.”

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at [email protected]