Kansas Citians who want a better airport — and a brighter regional future — can take a deep breath.
That future is finally in sight.
Voting 10 to 2 Thursday, the Kansas City Council endorsed Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate as the developer of the $1 billion project. It authorized city staff to negotiate a final memorandum of understanding with the firm, a semi-contract that will flesh out details of the proposal.
The council made the right decision. And the city’s voters, who will determine the fate of the airport in November, now can be confident the best proposal won.
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The journey to this day, however, has not been easy.
The long argument over a new terminal has been marked by distrust, misinformation, unnecessary secrecy and conflict. The confusion escalated in May, when The Star first reported on a proposal by Burns & McDonnell to design, build and find financing for a new terminal.
The deal was based on a no-bid, sole-source contract between the city and the company.
We said then — and still believe today — that Kansas City deserved a fair and transparent competition for the new terminal. The only way to judge the Burns & McDonnell plan, we said, was to compare it with other proposals, as openly as possible.
Despite some powerful resistance, the city eventually pursued such a competition. It worked. Kansas City now has a better airport plan to consider.
We’re still concerned members of the terminal selection committee failed to fully explain their decision-making process. They took no votes and kept no formal matrix of options. Those were mistakes.
But in a series of briefings Wednesday and Thursday, committee members and staff made a better case for the Edgemoor plan:
▪ Edgemoor’s was the lowest-cost option, with the best financing. Airport users will save hundreds of millions of dollars because of the airport competition.
▪ Edgemoor has extensive experience in airport projects. It offered the earliest completion date.
▪ Edgemoor showed a deep understanding of regulations surrounding terminal projects.
There are still some unanswered questions surrounding the bid. The company’s proposed design remains a work in progress. Thursday, Edgemoor said it would provide drawings and models in October.
Voters will and should demand those details before the November election.
There are also worries about Edgemoor’s commitment to inclusive hiring practices. To its credit, the firm has worked hard during the last two weeks to ease those concerns and appears to have been successful.
The ordinance approved Thursday, which was not formally required, details promises to deliver community benefits. They include public transportation, child care, a health clinic on-site, grants and a pledge to promptly pay subcontractors.
Those commitments must be in the memorandum of understanding, which should be finished by Nov. 7.
This has been an ordeal. It isn’t over: Signed agreements and a campaign remain.
But a messy chapter has been closed. The next chapter in Kansas City’s story will be told at the polls, less than seven weeks from now.