Council considering extension on airport proposal deadline

By Paul Thompson

Northeast News

June 6, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – City Council is considering an extension of the June 20 deadline for submitting proposals to construct a new single terminal airport, according to Council members who attended a closed meeting in City Manager Troy Schulte’s office on Tuesday, June 6.

Just after 2 p.m. on June 6, the Council broke out of its public work session and huddled together with a team of lawyers and City staff to discuss the future of Kansas City International Airport (KCI). When the Council emerged more than two hours later, 6th District Councilman Kevin McManus called the closed session a “beneficial discussion” that contained helpful information and differing ideas from the Council. McManus added that the Council was giving “strong consideration” to an extension.

“I think we’re looking at what to do next, and what’s the proper process that we need in place to assure that the City and the citizens are protected,” said McManus. “There’s a lot of discussion as to the current time frame and whether that gives us enough time to get those protections in place and make sure that we have the right process.”

Second District Councilwoman Teresa Loar noted that during the closed session, outside legal counsel recommended a 45-60 day window to solicit single terminal airport bids. Loar indicated that a significant portion of the Council now favors an extension, adding that a decision on whether to extend the deadline could come as soon as Thursday, June 8.

“I think there is definitely a sentiment to extend it,” Loar said.

Loar also expressed frustration with how the City introduced its plans for KCI, lamenting that many Council members didn’t even know what was going on until after the fact.

“We should have talked about this before they just did a press conference and announced it,” Loar said.

Mayor Sly James declined to comment following the closed session, citing attorney-client privilege.

James initially announced a Burns & McDonnell proposal to privately finance a new single terminal at KCI on Friday, May 12. At the time, he indicated that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would be presented to the Council during legislative session on Thursday, May 18, with public hearings on the proposal scheduled for the following week. During that May 18 session, though, Council showed its uneasiness with the plan when it voted 11-2 to hire outside counsel at a cost of $475,000 to vet the no-bid Burns & McDonnell proposal.

On Thursday, May 25, an introductory meeting was held between City Council and outside counsel. During that May 25 meeting, which occurred at a City Council business session, it was agreed that the outside counsel would prepare an initial overview of the MOU with Burns & McDonnell by June 6. The overview was scheduled to come just over a week before the June 15 legislative session, during which City Council had been expected to make a decision on the proposal.

By Tuesday, May 30, however, the City announced that it would be soliciting bids from qualified companies interested in submitting competing proposals to privately finance the modernization of KCI. Mayor Sly James noted that the decision came after Los Angeles-based company AECOM wrote a letter requesting the opportunity to submit a bid to compete with the private financing proposal already submitted by Burns & McDonnell. At the time, James called the decision to issue a Request for Qualifications/Proposals a “big win” for Kansas City.

“Our airport is the most vital investment that we’re going to make in order to share our city with the entire world,” James said. “And now we know that firms are ready to compete to make our airport as world-class as our city is.”

Ahead of the June 6 meeting with outside counsel, 3rd District Councilman Quinton Lucas published a Facebook post calling for the Council and the City Manager to work together to find consensus on the airport debate.

“Rather than eleventh hour changes of direction, City leadership, including the City Manager, should sit down with the Council and discuss our desired path forward for the future of #KCI,” Lucas wrote.

Lucas further called for an open and transparent process in the post, which concluded with a plea for city leaders to “avoid the complicated twists and turns” of a process that has left even City Council members scrambling to keep up with the latest news.

Loar agreed that the process needed to become more transparent.

“It feels like it was done hastily and without informing all of the Council,” Loar said.

“Right now, we have to do this process right,” she added. “We have to be open and transparent, and try to encourage companies nationwide and worldwide to find Kansas City open for business.”

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