Edgemoor is cleared for takeoff.
After a protracted procurement process that city leaders acknowledged was sloppy, council members on Thursday coalesced around Maryland-based Edgemoor as its developer for a proposed single terminal project at KCI.
The 10-2 council vote cements a selection committee’s recommendation made two weeks ago. Now the council will have to negotiate with Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate over specifics of the $1 billion project.
It also gives the public a firm idea of who would do the work on the city’s behalf when they head to the polls on Nov. 7 to make the decision about whether Kansas City does really need a new airport terminal.
“We are nearly at the finish line, we’ve come this far,” said Councilman Jermaine Reed, who earlier Thursday succeeded in amending the ordinance to include some community benefits and workforce issues the city will want satisfied going forward.
Councilwoman Teresa Loar said she was not and still is not convinced of the need for a new airport, but “I have decided that we will let the voters decide, and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Mayor Sly James, who had supported hometown bidder Burns & McDonnell, also supported the Edgemoor decision.
“I have always believed, and continue to believe to this day, that the issue of who builds the airport is significantly less important than that we build one,” James said. “We need to get on with this and get to Nov. 7. That is a point of unity that we should all be willing to sign off on.”
Councilmen Lee Barnes Jr. and Scott Taylor were the two “no” votes. Barnes argued that other prospective contractors had stronger plans for community benefits. Taylor favored Burns & McDonnell.
Barnes was also the lone dissenting vote earlier Thursday, when the council’s airport and finance committees voted jointly 7-1 to advance the Edgemoor pick to the full council.
Barring a failure to reach a deal with Edgemoor or some type of action from losing bidders, Thursday’s vote puts an end to a procurement process for KCI that was mired in allegations of conflicts of interest, impropriety and unnecessary secrecy.
Thursday’s vote also starts a public campaign aimed at convincing a voting public that has at times been skeptical of the need for a single terminal at KCI. We still don’t know what the terminal would look like. Drawings won’t be made public until October.
“We want to maintain the friendliness and convenience of the existing airport and bring it into the 21st century,” Derek Moore, director of architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the partners in the Edgemoor team, told the council committees earlier Thursday.
Edgemoor, a wholly owned subsidiary of construction firm Clark Construction, along with its other team partners, have done $63 billion in aviation work, according to city documents that analyzed its proposal.
Edgemoor rose to the top of four teams vying the KCI contract in the eyes of a six-member selection committee.
Charles Renner, a Husch Blackwell attorney who advised the selection committee, said Edgemoor’s low-cost financing approach, willingness to work with the city and its “professional demeanor” elevated Edgemoor’s position among the AECOM-led KCI Partnership, Burns & McDonnell-led KCI Hometown Team and Jones Lang LaSalle.
The council was not unanimous in its support for Edgemoor.
Barnes said Edgemoor’s original proposal lacked details about a community benefits agreement that it was later able to put together.
“We’re saying these guys (Edgemoor) are the best but now we’re negotiating the things others had in their proposals,” Barnes said.
He added that AECOM “without a doubt” was stronger on community benefits.
Taylor made a plea for his colleagues to reconsider Burns & McDonnell’s plan. Taylor, whose 6th District includes Burns & McDonnell’s headquarters, said lawyers for the construction and engineering firm questioned the basis for its elimination from contention.
The selection committee discarded Burns & McDonnell’s proposal because it identified a flaw in its financing proposal that didn’t square with a city ordinance that spells out how airport revenues go to pay for the facility’s obligations.
Renner added on Thursday that even if Burns & McDonnell’s financing plan met the terms of the city’s master bond ordinance, the financing structure still was not considered to be “in the best interests of the city.”
Advisers to the selection committee thought the Burns & McDonnell plan moved too much risk to the city and could affect how and if the city could issue debt in the future.
Taylor said doubts raised by Burns & McDonnell’s lawyers about the conclusions of the selection committee warranted a review by an independent third party, sounding a similar call made by Burns & McDonnell just prior to the committee’s announcement that Edgemoor was the preferred partner. Taylor’s call, like the Burns & McDonnell one before it, went unheeded.
Dan Fowler, a Northland councilman, also said he wished Burns & McDonnell could have gotten the terminal job, but he agreed to vote for Edgemoor anyway.
“I’m not getting what I want here,” Fowler said as Burns & McDonnell executives seated in the council chamber watched. “I want Burns & McDonnell to get it. They’re a local company, they have been in this community for years.”
In the end, Burns & McDonnell, which touched off the latest round of deliberations over KCI’s future in May with a plan to design and privately finance a single terminal, left City Hall on Thursday empty handed.
Geoffrey Stricker, managing director for Edgemoor, hoped to assure the public that his firm would hire local workers for the KCI project. He said he welcomed all local contractors to submit bids.
“It doesn’t matter to us if you were committed to another team or not in the procurement process,” Stricker said.
Bridgette Williams, a director of the Heavy Constructors Association, backed the Edgemoor proposal.
“We have a hometown connection as well and it is Clarkson Construction,” Williams said.
Clarkson Construction, a longstanding construction firm in Kansas City that’s with the Edgemoor team, is led by Bill Clarkson Jr. He has a seat on the board of directors for the Heavy Constructors Association, which is colloquially referred to as the “Heavies” because of its clout at City Hall.
The council did approve an amendment to the Edgemoor recommendation that includes a number of terms to a community benefits agreement as part of the KCI project.
Those terms included alternative transportation to get demolition and construction workers to KCI, licensed child care for those same workers, an on-site health clinic and a loan and grant program for small and disadvantaged businesses to cover the cost of performance bonds.
It also required Edgemoor to meet participation goals for minority- and women-owned businesses, which will be determined later.