Government & Politics

KC takes away Burns & McDonnell’s right of first refusal for airport proposals

lhorsley@kcstar.com

Reasons why Burns & McDonnell wants to build a new airport

Representatives of engineering firm Burns & McDonnell talked to Kansas City Star journalists in May after giving a presentation to the Kansas City Council on their proposal to replace Kansas City International Airport with a privately funded, sing
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Representatives of engineering firm Burns & McDonnell talked to Kansas City Star journalists in May after giving a presentation to the Kansas City Council on their proposal to replace Kansas City International Airport with a privately funded, sing

Kansas City added an addendum Monday to its request for airport proposals that removes a city promise to give Burns & McDonnell “right of first refusal” to match any other proposals.

The addendum said the “right of first refusal” would not be offered to any business entity as part of the city’s request for new airport terminal design proposals.

Cedric Rowan, the city’s manager of procurement services, said the city had decided to “follow our usual procurement procedure.” He declined to give any other reason for the change other than to say it “was a decision for what’s in the best interest of the city.”

Kristi Widmar, spokeswoman with Burns & McDonnell, referred questions to City Hall.

“All we can do at this point is provide the best plan we can for KCI,” Widmar said. “And we’re really confident that we are doing that.”

City Manager Troy Schulte said Monday that the city’s lawyers had advised that the right of first refusal could potentially be subjected to a legal challenge, so it was eliminated.

Katheryn Shields, a Kansas City councilwoman, said she, too, thought it was a potential legal problem.

“I think that the attorneys began to look at what was reasonable procedure and what wasn’t, and it became more evident that it wasn’t,” Shields said.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James spoke with reporters about the city taking bids from interested parties for the construction of a new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport during a news conference Tuesday in the city manager's office at

Kansas City announced last month that Kansas City-based Burns & McDonnell had made an unsolicited proposal and sought an exclusive deal to design, construct and privately finance a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

But after critics said the city should seek competitive proposals, and other major engineering firms expressed interest, Kansas City announced last week that it was opening up the project to a competitive request for qualifications and proposals.

When officials announced the original solicitation, they said verbally that Burns & McDonnell would have the opportunity to match or exceed other proposals.

City officials at the time said that the provision was called a “Swiss challenge,” where a company making an unsolicited offer earns the opportunity to equal other proposals if it chooses to, since it brought the original proposal to the table.

The written solicitation, however, didn’t say anything about a Swiss challenge.

The addendum, dated Monday, asked the question, “Will this RFP/Q process be administered in a manner sometimes referred to as the ‘Swiss challenge’?” And the answer provided was “no.”

Schulte said Monday that a “Swiss challenge” is not part of the city’s municipal procurement code provisions. However, he said the procurement code does allow for a “best and final” selection round of proposals, and he would support Burns & McDonnell being included in that process. He said that selection round would typically involve two proposers, but it depends on how many overall proposals are submitted.

“What we’ll do is as long as they submit for the formal process, it would be my recommendation to the rest of the committee that they go into the final round,” said Schulte, who is part of the selection team. “They would be part of any finalists’ selection but not guaranteed the right to match somebody else.”

Other selection committee members are Council members Jermaine Reed and Jolie Justus, plus Aviation Director Pat Klein. An airline consultant and an attorney are nonvoting committee members.

The addendum goes on to say that the demolition of Terminals A and B and the demolition of the parking structure for Terminal A are included in the request for proposals. The new terminal would be constructed where Terminal A is now. This plan still needs to go to city voters, possibly in a November election.

Proposals are due June 20. In response to a question asking for a 30-day extension for proposals, the city responds, “There will be no extension of time granted.”

Burns & McDonnell face key deadlines to get their proposal approved by the airlines, voters and City Council.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt

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