Government & Politics

Deadline for KCI new terminal proposals could be extended

There appears to a nbe push from some Kansas City council members to allow more time for firms to submit new airport terminal proposals, according to accounts of a two-hour closed session that the council held Tuesday with lawyers.

“There is definitely a sentiment to extend the deadline,” Northland Councilwoman Teresa Loar said after Tuesday’s closed door meeting.

The council met with lawyers from Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell and Washington D.C. law firm WilmerHale who are advising them on the best process to solicit proposals to design, construct and privately finance a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

The city on Monday issued an addendum to its solicitation process that said the deadline would not be extended past June 20, which would be roughly a three-week response period from the publication of the request for proposals.

But Loar said the lawyers advised council that the standard for such ambitious proposals would be 45 to 60 days. She suggested half of the 13-member council may introduce a measure at Thursday’s meeting to extend the deadline.

Kevin McManus, a 6th District councilman, emerged from the closed-door meeting and said there was “strong consideration into an extension” to the solicitation deadline.

Both Loar and McManus said the lawyers gave excellent advice that should help the council create a solicitation process that is fair to businesses and to the public.

Third District at-large Councilman Quinton Lucas agreed but was circumspect in his comments on how the city should proceed.

Earlier in the day, Lucas wrote a Facebook post that said the city’s process to date has been marred by some “complicated twists and turns,” and that asking for proposals to be returned in about three weeks was “a bit quick.”

This process began in early May, when Mayor Sly James and City Manager Troy Schulte said Kansas City-based Burns & McDonnell had made an unsolicited proposal and deserved an exclusive deal to build and privately finance a new terminal.

Then last week, the mayor and city manager said the process would be opened to other companies, but Burns & McDonnell would have the “right of first refusal.” Then the addendum Monday made clear that the “right of first refusal” was off the table.

Apparently dismayed by the evolving nature of the KCI process, Lucas on Facebook implored city leaders to “avoid further frustration and sit down and do things the right way.”

“The region also deserves and can have a clear and fair process for how we get to it that doesn’t run Burns & Mac or any company through the wringer as we figure out the rules during the game,” Lucas wrote.

James declined comment after the meeting. Schulte said the session provided helpful direction as the city tries to “get an airport built.”

But as to whether he thought the council wanted to extend the deadline for proposals, Schulte said, “They didn’t give that direction.”

Loar said she thought there may be five council members who aren’t leaning toward an extension, but there may be at least six who are. Other council members would not say what they were thinking after the closed session.

“We are going to look at the RFP and make changes, likely extending the date,” Loar said. “We can’t leave ourselves open for legal action. We have to slow things down....We need an open and transparent process.”

If the council does extend the solicitation deadline, it may push a decision past late August, which would be the time to draft ballot language for a November vote. The mayor has said he wants a public vote in November on whether the city should build a new airport terminal.

Lynn Horsley: 816-226-2058, @LynnHorsley