Kansas City’s muddled process for seeking bids on a new airport terminal grew murkier Monday — clear evidence the process is moving too quickly.
The City Council should insist on extending the deadline for submitting proposals or require City Manager Troy Schulte to do so.
As it stands now, companies interested in winning the contract to design, build and finance a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport face a June 20 deadline for submitting their plans — just two weeks from now.
But the city need not be bound by that arbitrary deadline. If there is evidence potential bidders need additional time to submit quality proposals, council members should seek an extension.
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The need for a delay became apparent Monday afternoon when the city issued an addendum to the original request for proposals (RFP) for the airport project.
The addendum said the city would not give initial bidder Burns & McDonnell the chance to meet or exceed any other proposal for the new terminal, using a process called a Swiss challenge.
Just one week ago, Schulte announced that Burns & McDonnell would have the opportunity to match any competitor’s plan. Now that’s off the table.
The last-minute scrambling suggests City Hall is moving with unneeded haste on the terminal, the biggest public building project in city history. If city officials are still lacking clarity, imagine the confusion among potential bidders on the project — let alone Burns & McDonnell, which must now adjust its own strategy.
Both outside experts and would-be competitors have noted the unusually tight time frame.
There is still time to do this right.
City Hall knows this. In 2008, after a confusing battle over an RFP to manage the city’s documents, an audit sharply criticized management for asking for proposals too quickly.
“The city only gave vendors 14 working days to respond to the RFP,” the audit found.
The copier contract was worth $12.5 million. The airport is a $1 billion project, and proposals must be submitted in 15 working days.
Extending the deadline should not delay the airport project or jeopardize a November vote. Asking bidders to submit plans by July 18, for example, would give the selection committee and the City Council more than a month to pick the successful proposal and still put the question on the ballot.
It’s possible the city’s consultants and legal advisers will recommend a delay. That request could come as soon as Tuesday, when council members hold a working session with outside advisers.
Some on the City Council are already discussing an extension of the deadline.
In Monday’s addendum, the city said the project’s June 20 deadline is firm. In the original RFP, though, the city said it “reserves the right at any time to change or extend the due date.”
That suggests some flexibility.
A delay would be good politics. If voters are convinced the fast timetable was established to help one bidder, they may be more likely to vote against the plan in November.
In their 2008 report, auditors explained why this process is so important. A successful procurement system, they wrote, is based on “competition, transparency, accountability, and integrity.”
We couldn’t agree more. The City Council must take whatever time it needs to ensure those outcomes at KCI.