Now that Kansas City leaders have dealt with earnings tax renewal, at least for the time being, they can turn their attention to another important and contentious issue.
The future of Kansas City International Airport.
The City Council’s Airport Committee has held several meetings about KCI terminal planning, and its work is nearly complete. It expects to wrap up its deliberations after two more meetings this month.
The first meeting is at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the 10th floor committee room of City Hall, 414 E. 12th St. The topic is customer service and convenience, and how airport improvements can retain what passengers value about the current airport.
“Whenever anybody talks about the Kansas City airport, whether they love it or hate it, they all use the word convenience,” said committee Chairwoman Jolie Justus. “What does it mean to passengers in 2016?”
Justus said many people think about convenience in terms of getting dropped at the curb and then walking to the gate. But she expects Tuesday’s discussion will address other aspects of service to passengers and other airport users.
While city officials have focused in recent months on a single-terminal plan, another public meeting will present an alternate vision for KCI.
Kansas City-based Crawford Architects, which worked with a team of global aviation firms on an alternate renovation plan for the airport, will discuss its plan in detail at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library, 4801 Main St. That plan was revealed by The Kansas City Star, but consultants working with the aviation department rejected it.
Crawford Architects will be hosts of the presentation by a group called Citizens for Responsible Government. Group spokesman Dan Coffey said he helped arrange for the presentation because city officials would not give Crawford a fair hearing.
Members of the Airport Committee will fly to Dallas and meet at the end of the week with top Southwest officials to get a full understanding of their perspective on KCI.
An important Airport Committee hearing is at 1:30 p.m. April 26 at City Hall. Justus said that meeting is when airline representatives and aviation officials are expected to present the final recommendation for modernizing the airport.
Based on recent presentations, Justus said, it’s safe to assume that the recommendation will be for a new single terminal, rather than renovations to the existing two or three airport terminals. Southwest and the other airlines at the airport already have argued that’s the most affordable and practical solution to the airport’s shortcomings.
The April 26 presentation is expected to include more specifics about that single-terminal concept, more refined costs, and how the airlines and other airport users would pay for it. The project, forecast to cost nearly $1 billion, would not be financed by general taxpayer dollars.
Once that presentation happens, Justus said, it will be up to the City Council to decide whether to put that recommendation to voters. An election could come in August or November, although that’s far from certain.
Whatever the council decides, Justus emphasized, Kansas City voters will have the final say on any airport improvement and financing.
“What I hope comes from this is the airlines come and make their case for what they want, and what they’re willing to pay for,” Justus said, “and the citizens can make the decision based on the facts.”