AECOM, the Los Angeles firm leading KCI Partnership, announced Monday morning that Burns & McDonnell is now a team member in a renewed push for the KCI contract.
Discussions of a possible AECOM-Burns & McDonnell arrangement had circulated since Thursday’s Kansas City Council vote to turn down a proposed memorandum of understanding with Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, the firm that the council had previously selected to design and build the $1 billion single terminal at KCI.
The announcement was made at a press conference at AECOM’s Kansas City headquarters in Crown Center. It confirmed an earlier report by The Star of the combination of the two firms.
It’s an unexpected marriage; the two firms had traded rhetorical barbs toward one another during the summer-long procurement process, after which Edgemoor emerged as the winning team.
“We have no worries that we can’t be great partners together,” Ron Coker of Burns & McDonnell said at a press conference.
But it’s unclear whether the city council will ever consider that new partnership.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who last week lashed out at council members who weren’t on board with Edgemoor, could not immediately be reached for comment after the AECOM announcement Monday.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner, who had serious concerns about the vagueness of the agreement with Edgemoor, nonetheless said Monday that it’s premature to consider a new partnership between AECOM and Burns & McDonnell, while Edgemoor remains the first choice team.
“From my standpoint, we still have a group (Edgemoor) that we have not ended our discussion with,” Wagner said. “You’ve got to play out the discussion with No. 1.”
Wagner said that before the council considers switching to a different development team, Edgemoor needs to be given a fair chance to address concerns that numerous council members have raised.
The council this week is expected to discuss a resolution, introduced last Thursday, to end negotiations with Edgemoor and start talks with KCI Partnership. KCI Partnership came up second to Edgemoor during City Hall’s request for proposals and qualifications earlier this year.
Officials with KCI Partnership said they were not jumping the gun with Monday’s announcement, but merely getting ready in case the city council dumps Edgemoor.
“We just want to be well prepared for the eventuality,” said Michael Handelman, an AECOM principal.
Edgemoor and City Hall officials were not immediately available for comment.
Edgemoor’s hold on the KCI contract has taken water amid criticism by city council members and other business leaders that the firm has not demonstrated enough of a commitment to minority hiring and community benefits agreements.
“(Edgemoor’s) commitment was very shallow in terms of community benefits,” Kelvin Perry, president of the Greater Kansas City Black Chamber of Commerce, said Monday at the announcement.
KCI Partnership appeared ready to seize on that vulnerability.
AECOM said that KCI Partnership will make a $75 million investment to what it’s calling a Legacy Fund, which is a fund meant to provide access to capital for minority- and women-owned businesses. In addition, KCI Partnership said it would invest $15 million in a community benefits agreement and a make commitment to pay minority subcontractors in five days.
KCI Partnership also said it would seek 30 percent to 33 percent minority business participation in the value of the contract.
Details on financing and designing the airport have yet to be worked out.
Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved a Nov. 7 referendum to allow City Hall to proceed with replacing KCI’s three terminals with a new, modern single terminal.
But discussions with Edgemoor on the framework of a deal have not been satisfactory to the majority of the Kansas City Council, members of which have expressed their misgivings about the vague terms of the proposed MOU and lacking commitments from Edgemoor on community benefits agreements.
City Councilman Jermaine Reed last week said the city should continue negotiating with Edgemoor.
“We have to do better as a City Council,” he said in a statement. “Our voters and our business partners absolutely deserve better than what they got (Thursday) from the Council. The legacy of Kansas City deserves better than what these Councilmembers dished out.”
James last Friday signaled his unhappiness with Thursday’s rejection of the Edgemoor deal, calling it a “bad political move.”
It was James who helped negotiate what would have been a no-bid KCI contract with Burns & McDonnell, which became public last May. Councilmembers objected to that arrangement and insisted on putting the contract out for competitive proposals.
That resulted in a protracted procurement process during the summer.
Burns & McDonnell was disqualified from the KCI procurement after the city’s financial and legal advisers determined that its proposed private financing plan for the $1 billion project was not compatible with the city’s bonding ordinances.