The Kansas City Council made the right decision Tuesday when it extended the deadline for proposals for a new airport terminal and agreed to keep a public financing option for the project on the table.
Now, Kansas Citians will need to be patient as the blanks are filled in.
Companies that want to design, finance and build the terminal will have until July 27 to provide their qualifications for the Kansas City International Airport terminal project. They’ll have another 15 days — until Aug. 10 — to provide options for paying for their proposals.
Both deadlines are much more reasonable than the original cutoff, which was June 20. The extended time frame will give competitors ample opportunity to fully study the needs of the airlines and their passengers and then recommend a terminal that will satisfy stakeholders.
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Bidders will also be asked to provide details of private financing for the $1 billion project. Burns & McDonnell offered a private placement of terminal debt as part of its original proposal, and a recent poll suggests Kansas City’s voters see private financing as a better idea for KCI.
But a public option — airport revenue bonds, which would be paid for by airport users but are typically less costly than private borrowing — will remain a possibility. Keeping a public option is important. It’s a good way to gauge the pros and cons of private borrowing, and it gives the City Council a ready fallback if private financing proves too costly or complicated.
The new deadlines and the financing decision came after a lengthy, closed-door City Council session to discuss an amended request for proposals.
Kansas Citians should be encouraged by the improvements to this process. At the same time, they will need to be patient during the next several months.
The Aug. 10 deadline for all proposals comes just two weeks before the council must decide what it wants to place before voters in November. Council members said Tuesday they hope to pick the winning bidder before the ballot deadline, but that seems optimistic.
It shouldn’t matter. The council can still meet the ballot deadline while it considers the final proposals. There is no need to rush the choice just to meet a ballot access deadline in August.
The city should pick a winning bid before the November vote, and city officials said Tuesday that goal is reasonable.
Kansas Citians should be warned: Some details of the project probably won’t be finalized until after the November vote.
The city is approaching a critical 50-year decision on the airport. We’re confident voters will now give the airport terminal project full and fair consideration this year.