Minority contractors and some Kansas City residents advocated fervently Monday for a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport, but others were just as adamant that the city should give equal consideration to renovations.
Opinions were divided nearly equally at Monday night’s City Council forum on the airport’s future. The city is asking airport design companies to submit proposals by June 20 for a $1 billion new single terminal. But the city council, and city voters, still must approve any decision to move forward with such a plan.
“The only way to fix the airport is with a new airport,” Bill Alexander, president of Alexander Mechanical, told a joint council committee Monday night. Alexander agreed KCI is very convenient but argued the last remodel, finished in 2004, didn’t stand the test of time and a new terminal is now needed.
David Paine, who owns an airport shuttle company, countered that the passengers he transports love KCI. “We need to improve what we have, and it can be done,” he said.
The city decided last week to seek competitive proposals from airport design companies across the country, including Kansas City-based Burns & McDonnell. But the city is just seeking plans for a new single terminal, not renovations. Some in the audience Monday wondered why a previous renovation proposal from Kansas City-based Crawford Architects isn’t being considered.
Councilman Dan Fowler, who represents the Northland, told the crowd at the end of the meeting that the airlines have made clear renovations don’t meet their needs. The airlines want larger gate areas, plus changes to the baggage systems, concessions, technology improvements, and separate roadways for arriving and departing passengers.
Fowler said the airlines will guarantee the debt for a new terminal, but not renovations. So if the airlines won’t pay for renovations, Fowler said, taxpayers would have to.
“We (the taxpayers) could pay for it,” Fowler said. “I don’t want to.”
Still, he said the ultimate decision will rest with city voters, possibly in November.
Interested companies have until June 20 to submit a proposal, after which a selection committee will evaluate the options and forward its recommendation to the Kansas City Council.
Companies will be asked to present proposals that involve design, construction and private financing for the new terminal. Once a proposal is chosen, a memorandum of understanding will be negotiated and approved by the council. The deadline for that is about July 15. The City Council would still have to approve ballot language by August in order to hold the November election.
Two more hearings will be held this week about KCI. One is 6 p.m. Tuesday at Northland Cathedral, 101 NW 99th St. The other is at 9:15 a.m. Thursday at City Hall, 26th floor Council Chambers.