Frustrated with the Kansas City Council’s problem-plagued negotiations with airport developer Edgemoor, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce issued a sharply worded statement Tuesday telling the council to get its act together.
The council also held a work session Tuesday and tried to do just that, discussing the beginnings of a coherent framework and time line to try to reach a successful development deal within a few months. That framework could become clearer at council meetings Thursday.
The chamber’s hand-delivered letter to Mayor Sly James and the city council was prompted by a chaotic council meeting last week, at which nine of the 13 council members rejected a proposed memorandum of understanding with the selected development team led by Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate.
Mayor Sly James blasted those nine for what he saw as a politically motivated and damaging vote. But several in the majority said they had legitimate concerns that the MOU was full of holes and left the city financially vulnerable.
On Monday, the two other prospective bidders for the airport project, AECOM and Burns & McDonnell, announced they would team up in a new partnership if the negotiations with Edgemoor fall apart.
Dismayed by the discord, the chamber on Tuesday reminded the council that business, labor and civic organizations invested $2 million in a campaign for a new single-terminal at Kansas City International Airport. Kansas City residents did their part in early November by voting 3-to-1 in favor of that new $1 billion terminal.
“Kansas City voters said yes to a Better KCI, expecting you and your colleagues to proceed in an open, transparent, and professional manner to bring the new terminal to fruition,” the letter said.
“The actions of these past few days do nothing to reassure Kansas Citians and the business community in the process now underway at City Hall, and is not a good example of how business should be conducted. We urge you to negotiate in good faith and in a transparent manner respecting the integrity of the process. We also urge you to get it done.”
The Council’s Airport Committee is set Thursday to debate a resolution sponsored by Councilman Lee Barnes that would terminate negotiations with Edgemoor.
But on Tuesday the council met for more than an hour trying to get the negotiations back on track, with most council members striving to figure out how to communicate their concerns more effectively to their legal team and to Edgemoor.
Councilwoman Katheryn Shields suggested that rather than making Edgemoor meet with all 13 council members separately, the council should work collaboratively on a coherent list of concerns to allow Edgemoor to deal with them efficiently and comprehensively.
James said he would introduce a change to Barnes’ proposed resolution, directing the city manager to continue negotiations with Edgemoor for a reasonable amount of time.
Geoffrey Stricker, managing director with Edgemoor, said after Tuesday’s council work session that his team was listening to council members and he thought something solid could be negotiated within 30 to 60 days.
Even as the council wrangles over the airport development process, council members acknowledged they owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and financial fees for the negotiations to date.
The city already has paid about $950,000 to law firms for the development procurement process dating back to May. It still owes $383,000 for legal and financial fees through October. And it projects owing another $500,000 through next March.