‘No hurry’ on KCI, crowd is told

Kansas City Councilman Dick Davis assured a large and skeptical audience Thursday night that the City Council has not made up its mind to build a new terminal at KCI.

Davis was one of four panelists at a Downtown Library forum on Kansas City International Airport’s future. The forum, sponsored by the Citizens Association, drew several hundred people to explore one of the most contentious decisions facing the metro area.

“We’re in no hurry,” Davis told the crowd.

Davis joined the majority in the council’s 9-3 April vote to continue studying a single terminal configuration for KCI, but he said the city has taken a step back and is awaiting a citizens advisory group’s recommendations late this year.

The task force is examining whether Kansas City should build a new single terminal, estimated to cost $1.2 billion, or do a less drastic renovation of terminals B and C in the next few years.

Davis said something must be done to ensure the 40-year-old airport’s long-term viability. But he added that the public will likely have the final say, because revenue bonds for any significant improvements require a public vote.

Panelist John Murphy is part of a group gathering petition signatures to guarantee a public vote on any KCI terminal changes. Murphy, a Brookside resident, drew enthusiastic applause when he said he knows people with 100-year-old homes who sensibly fix what’s broken rather than tearing down and building new.

But panelist Don Hensley, an aviation consultant with 33 years of FAA experience, said that analogy may not work for airports. Hensley, who years ago was involved with terminal facilities management at KCI, recalled that Kansas Citians at one time doubted the need for a new control tower, even though the need was real.

“Somebody stepped up and did it,” Hensley said, adding that KCI again needs to modernize in some way. However, Hensley said he’s not convinced the aviation department’s proposed terminal concept is the best design or allows sufficiently for future growth.

Councilman Scott Wagner, the fourth panelist, said he sees no urgency to the decision and needs to know what the airlines will commit to financially before he makes up his mind.

The forum was moderated by Nick Haines of Kansas City Public Television, and key segments will air July 26.