Leaders of Kansas City’s union and construction trade groups gathered Wednesday with a show of force to endorse Burns & McDonnell’s proposal to build and finance a new $1 billion terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
“There’s no doubt we support the Burns & McDonnell plan,” Pat “Duke” Dujakovich, president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, said at a news conference at the Builders Association Education and Training Center in North Kansas City. Dujakovich was flanked by iron workers, bricklayers and representatives of other construction trades who said the thousands of jobs from the project would be a big boon for the area.
“I’m very excited about the future of Kansas City and the future of the airport,” said Reginald Thomas, president and business manager of Laborers Local 264. “This will truly make Kansas City a world-class city.”
Alise Martiny, business manager of the Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council, said her father helped work on the original KCI airport when it was built in the 1970s. But she, too, endorsed the idea of a new terminal to replace the existing horseshoe terminal configuration that many Kansas City residents like for its convenience.
Dujakovich said he wouldn’t oppose renovations to the existing terminals, but that’s not the plan that the airlines and business leaders in the city have endorsed. He said this new terminal project is the one that’s teed up to go.
“The time has now come for a new airport” terminal, he said. “Burns & McDonnell is an iconic Kansas City company.”
Joe Hudson, political director of the St. Louis-Kansas City Carpenters Regional Council, also urged the City Council to say yes to this plan and continue progress in Kansas City and at the airport.
Some have suggested Kansas may try to build a new airport in Johnson County to serve the Kansas City metro area. But Mike Kane, president of the Tri-County Labor Council of Eastern Kansas, said that airport scheme is “Brownback dreaming,” referring to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Kane joined Missouri union representatives in endorsing the Burns & McDonnell plan, saying, “You can’t live on outdated stuff.”
“It’s time for the city to step up,” he said.
But the decision to move forward with Burns & McDonnell’s unusual financing proposal rests with the City Council, and ultimately with city voters. A citywide election could be held in November.
Only two City Council members, Jolie Justus and Scott Wagner, were at Wednesday’s news conference. Mayor Sly James is solidly in favor of the proposal as well. But many of the 13 City Council members still have major questions and are on the fence about it. They will discuss the idea further at a 1 p.m. meeting at City Hall on Thursday, and then public hearings on the idea are planned later this month.