Paul Thompson
Northeast News

In the span of one wild week, the KCMO City Council has brought the single terminal airport negotiations from off the rails to back on track; but that doesn’t mean Edgemoor is out of the woods quite yet.

During the Thursday, December 21 meeting of the Airport Committee, Mayor Sly James introduced a committee substitute to Resolution No. 171017 that would salvage the stalled Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) negotiations with Edgemoor by proposing a strict timeline for renewed discussions with the developer selected in September to construct a new single terminal airport at Kansas City International.

Resolution No. 171017 had been initially proposed by 5th District Councilman Lee Barnes on December 14 to terminate further negotiations on the MOU with Edgemoor. Barnes proposed the Resolution after a 9-4 super-majority of the Council voted to reject the initial MOU that was released on November 30. Among the stated concerns of the Council were insufficient community benefits, undefined limits for a reimbursement agreement that would be exercised if the two sides can’t ultimately reach a deal, vague language in the document and a lack of communication between the negotiating team and Council members.

“Our legal team provided no updates on negotiations – no briefings and no background – except for a 15-minute phone call without the document the day it was later introduced to the public,” said 6th District Councilman Kevin McManus.

The committee substitute proposed by James essentially opens up a new window of negotiation, with plans to make a final decision on the MOU – and if the terms of the MOU aren’t improved, on Edgemoor – by January 30, 2018. The committee sub was passed unanimously by the Airport Committee, and it went on to be approved by a 12-1 vote of the full City Council during the Dec. 21 legislative meeting.

The new language for Resolution No. 171017 states the City Council concerns regarding the MOU released on November 30, which include: “absence of adequate specificity in discussion of financial terms and obligations of the MOU; terms of the proposed reimbursement obligation; provisions of the community benefit agreement; local workforce hiring and workforce protection issues; items raised previously by members of Council; and any and all other concerns necessary to protect the best interests of the City and the regional flying public.”

The committee substitute further asks the Council to reiterate that it is in the best interests of the City to continue negotiations with Edgemoor “and to establish a timeline for initial review of a newly submitted MOU and related information.” It also directs the City Attorney and appointed outside counsel to continue negotiations on a Memorandum of Understanding with Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate LLC for the terminal modernization project. The document suggests that Husch Blackwell LLP and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hall and Dorr LLP will remain involved in the negotiation process, along with the City Attorney.

It also lays out a specific timeline moving forward. On Tuesday, January 9, the City Attorney and appointed outside counsel will be expected to provide the Council with an update on the renewed negotiations with Edgemoor. Specifically, the committee substitute directs negotiators to provide updates on key issues within the previous MOU: as well all items of concerns raised by the City Council in the interim.

On Thursday, January 11, the Council will meet as a Committee of the Whole (as Councilman Quinton Lucas has long preferred) to discuss the matters presented by the negotiation team on January 9, along with any other pressing concerns regarding the negotiation process. By Thursday, January 18, the City Attorney and appointed counsel will report back to the City Council for another progress report, at which point the negotiation team will be expected to notify the Council of any impediments to the negotiations. At this point, if the team is satisfied with the MOU “as a best and final expression of terms between the parties,” they will be asked to circulate a draft copy of the document.

From there, the City Council will meet again as a Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, January 30 to discuss any remaining concerns. At that point, the Council may make a recommendation to authorize the City Attorney to “adopt and formally present to Council a revised Memorandum of Understanding as a best and final expression of terms between the parties or a recommendation concerning a remaining impediment to resolution of the items and issues of concern to Council.”

The unanimous Airport Committee vote on the committee substitute set the stage for a successful Council vote later that day. During that committee meeting, 3rd District Councilman Quinton Lucas said that he hoped the new direction will help make things clear moving forward.

“When this comes to the public again, they can have some comfort that this is the best we can do,” Lucas said.

Second District Councilman Dan Fowler added that the committee substitute provided more clarity as the Council works to hammer out a better deal than was originally presented by Edgemoor on November 30.

“This certainly accomplishes the goal of continuing to negotiate,” Fowler said. “It is very important. It does in fact set the stage for what will eventually be the final document.”

Fifth District Councilwoman Alissia Canady supported the fact that the committee substitute lays out a process for the City Council to have collective input moving forward.

“I think this is an approach that will get us to something that we can all be excited about, if we do it the right way,” Canady said.

Later, during the full Council meeting, Canady articulated what was on the Council’s minds when they rejected the MOU during the previous week’s meeting.

“What we set forth today with this resolution is a process; a process for how we as a council are going to conduct ourselves moving forward,” Canady said. “We can’t be in such a hurry to get a deal done, that we don’t get a good deal.”