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New Air Force museum hangar opening pushed back to 2016

A company’s complaint about the bidding for construction caused the setback, but the Army Corps of Engineers dismissed the protest on Friday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied a protest lodged over the award of a $35.4 million contract to Turner Construction Co. to expand the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, officials said.

But the more than a month the Army Corps of Engineers took to evaluate the protest will push the opening date of a new 224,000-square-foot hangar gallery to early 2016 from late 2015, Museum Director John “Jack” Hudson said late Friday.

“We just made the adjustment for all the work to get done,” he said at a press conference at the museum. “…It really helps that we can move forward now.” Construction is set to begin this summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers gave the go-ahead Friday for Washington, D.C.-based Turner Construction Co. to proceed with the project after the federal agency reviewed the protest, museum and Corps of Engineers officials said. The Corps of Engineers evaluated and awarded the original bid.

Lawyers at the Corps of Engineers Louisville District and in Cincinnati reviewed the protest filed Dec. 12, but the federal agency has not released the name of the company that filed the complaint, and has not detailed the basis of the protest or why it was overturned.

Gloria Ritter, an Army Corps of Engineers contracting officer, declined to elaborate Friday because of “procurement sensitivity,” but she said the contractor will not be able to appeal the decision within the agency. The Dayton Daily News and Springfield News-Sun has filed a public records request for the information.

Despite the delay, Hudson did not criticize the contractor that filed the protest.

“In the government contracting process, these kinds of things are allowed to happen,” he said. “It’s the way our country operates and it’s a good thing.”

Five companies bid on the contract. Along with Turner Construction, the bidders included: 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.

The non-profit Air Force Foundation Inc. has spent five years raising the money for the privately funded expansion. The addition will be home to the Presidential, Research and Development and Space and Global Reach galleries.

Among the dozens of exhibits, the new hangar will house a full-scale mock-up of a Space Shuttle Crew Compartment Trainer, the sole remaining giant, delta-winged XB-70 experimental bomber capable of Mach 3 flight, and historic presidential planes. The centerpiece of the presidential collection is a Boeing 707 known as SAM 26000, which carried President John F. Kennedy’s body back to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., after his assassination in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as president aboard the jet immediately after Kennedy’s death.

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