The byzantine process of selecting a construction team for a new Kansas City International Airport has taken another turn, and its left at least one proposer expressing public concern.
During an open work session on Tuesday, August 15, outside counsel Charles Renner informed the City Council that follow-up questions had been submitted to the four proposers following a day of interviews with the teams on Monday, August 14.
“At the conclusion of yesterday, one swath of questions was identified that was appropriate to put out all four teams,” Renner said.
Renner added that answers to those questions were expected to be provided by noon on Thursday, August 17, before the committee reconvenes to review the follow-up information on Friday, August 18. Even from there, a selection committee recommendation may not be imminent.
“The committee needs whatever that appropriate time is to work through this selection process,” Renner said. “We’re not expecting that to happen any time until sometime after they’ve had a chance to digest the responses.”
Karl Reichelt of AECOM – leaders of the KCI Partnership proposer team – provided a strong statement to media following the open portion of the work session in which he detailed his team’s reaction to the news that follow-up answers would be requested.
“Our concern is that after we’ve all made our submittals and everything is public, they’re moving the goalposts on us,” Reichelt said. “We want to make sure that doesn’t happen, because we think we won fair and square, straight up, which is the way it should be.”
According to Reichelt, the proposers were informed at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning that the committee had additional questions for each team. Reichelt added that it was “very odd” to be asked to provide further financial details after the bids had already been submitted.
“Our interpretation of it is essentially, ‘Please give us another financial proposal, even though we asked you for one on August 10,’ which everyone complied with,” Reichelt said. “For some reason, we’re sort of having to scramble with basically 48 hours to repackage our financing, and we’re not sure what’s behind it.”
When asked what compelled his team to attend the open work session at City Hall, Reichelt responded that the goal was to provide oversight of the process.
“We wanted to make sure that the City is aware we’re watching, we’re paying attention, and we’re counting on them being open, fair and transparent to our team – but also to the other teams and to the public, who have to ultimately support this project in November,” Reichelt answered.
According to City leaders, the RFQ/P put out by the City explicitly allows for follow-up questions. Still, Reichelt wasn’t the only one perplexed by the latest development in the airport saga. Council members Teresa Loar (2nd District), Kathy Shields (4th District) and Quinton Lucas (3rd District) all asked pointed questions about the decision while the Council was in open session.
In a follow-up conversation after the Council emerged from closed session, Lucas said that his recommendation would be to withdraw the follow-up questions and proceed with the selection process.
“It seems like every time we take one step forward, we take two steps back,” Lucas said. “I don’t get it; I really don’t.”
Lucas added that his opinion wasn’t influenced by the statement from Reichelt and that the Council won’t be bullied or biased by any firm involved in the RFQ/P process. Still, he maintained that the decision to submit follow-up questions represents yet another hurdle.
“I’ll just hope that wiser heads prevail,” he said.