Editorials

A better deal: Kansas City could save more than $300 million on new airport terminal

The Kansas City City Council KCI selection committee includes (from left) council member Jermaine Reed, Procurement Director Cedric Rowan, council member Jolie Justus, City Manager Troy Schulte and Aviation Director Pat Klein.
The Kansas City City Council KCI selection committee includes (from left) council member Jermaine Reed, Procurement Director Cedric Rowan, council member Jolie Justus, City Manager Troy Schulte and Aviation Director Pat Klein. tljungblad@kcstar.com

The Kansas City region is taking a major step toward a needed, modern terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

There is still important work to do. Voters will render the final verdict in November.

But Wednesday’s announcement that Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate of Maryland had won the support of the terminal selection committee clears away enormous amounts of flammable underbrush from the summer-long airport debacle.

The selfish sniping involving perceived front-runners AECOM and Burns & McDonnell only ended up hurting those companies’ proposals. To Kansas City’s relief, that distraction appears over.

Instead, voters will now want to turn their attention to Edgemoor and its ideas for the $1 billion project.

Alone among the four proposers, Edgemoor kept its plans out of the public eye in August. That secrecy might have helped with members of the selection committee, but it won’t wash with the electorate.

Edgemoor should fully disclose its design and financing plans as quickly as possible, preferably before the full City Council considers the recommendation this month.

Voters will want to know if the company will ask any local agencies to provide borrowing for the terminal. They’ll want to see firm commitments for participation from women- and minority-owned businesses. They’ll need to see an airport design.

The selection committee should be more open, too. Members said Wednesday there was no official vote on the winning bid, and apparently no “score” of the proposers. How, then, was Edgemoor chosen?

In August, Kansas City Councilwoman Jolie Justus said voters would be able to see committee members’ work after the recommendation. The city should hold her to that promise.

Wednesday, City Manager Troy Schulte said his decision was based in part on “feel” — he was simply more comfortable with Edgemoor.

Some council members were not happy with his comments. Voters, they know, can’t make their decision on feel. They’ll need cold, hard facts — and, by the way, a signed agreement with Edgemoor before Election Day.

We hope AECOM and Burns & McDonnell learned important lessons from this process. A summer of press releases, rallies, accusations and heated rhetoric added up to nothing.

It turns out the committee was more interested in facts than silly TV ads. If either company is looking for a scapegoat this morning, any nearby mirror would help.

Finally, the original proposal from Burns & McDonnell anticipated an annual cost of up to $85 million, paid for by airport users. Wednesday, the city said all the final bids came in at roughly $74.3 million a year.

A competitive process yielded likely savings of more than $300 million. That is precisely why The Star argued for competitive bids from the minute we first learned of the no-bid plan offered by Burns & McDonnell and Mayor Sly James in May.

Competition has given us a better airport proposal, and a real chance for a better airport. Kansas Citians should take that chance.

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