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Public gets first input as KCI study panel meets

Updated: 2013-06-07T03:00:27Z

By LYNN HORSLEY

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City’s airport study panel held its first public meeting Thursday and said its goal will be to recommend the best airport to serve the region now and for future generations.

Commission co-chairman Bob Berkebile said he hopes the group can issue its recommendations before the end of the year.

But already the initiative has been embroiled in a minor controversy. Two people were excluded from the public meeting at Union Station.

Dan Coffey, a member of a group gathering petition signatures against a new airport terminal, said he and a colleague were unfairly prevented from attending the meeting.

Coffey said that he had been gathering petition signatures in front of Union Station before the meeting but that security told him to leave. When he then tried to attend the task force meeting, security told him he had to leave and he did. Coffey said he was never told what law he was violating or why he had to leave.

Union Station Kansas City Inc. issued a statement later saying that Union Station is not a public building and does not allow petition signing inside on any issue. The statement said the petitioners refused to move to a public area outside the building, so security and Kansas City police officers helped move them to a public area.

Coffey denied making any attempt to gather signatures inside the building and said he was just trying to attend the same meeting that other members of the public were allowed to attend.

Task force members said they expect to go to “airport school” for the next few meetings, studying everything, including airport finances, security, FAA involvement, efficiency, passenger convenience, ticket prices, parking, amenities, economic development prospects, environmental considerations and competitiveness with peer airports.

Dave Fowler, the other commission co-chairman, said that there will be time for opposing interest group views and opinions, but that the main goal will be to gather the facts on all aspects concerning how the airport serves the city and region.

“Focus on the facts,” Fowler urged.

The group will also look at other airports and best practices, “things that we should strive for and things we should avoid,” Berkebile said.

Some members of the audience expressed skepticism about all the attention on Kansas City International Airport, saying other city issues deserve far more attention.

“Many people can’t afford to fly or even take a trip to the airport,” said Pat Clarke, an urban core community organizer.

But Bill Moran, who frequently uses KCI, told the task force that the airport’s future is one of the most important issues facing the city.

“We have a little-league airport,” he said, later adding that he is concerned about all the direct flights KCI has lost to other airports.

The group will hold its next meeting at 7:30 a.m. June 18 at the Mid-America Regional Council, 600 Broadway.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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