Despite continuing indications of a messy, unorganized process, the Kansas City Council can take an important step this week in the effort to build a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
Thursday, the council is expected to take up an ordinance confirming the choice of Edgemoor Infrastructure as the lead developer on the terminal project.
The ordinance authorizes the city to finalize a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the company. The council should pass the measure — but if, and only if, it has received full written disclosure of the terminal selection committee’s reasoning for its Edgemoor recommendation.
We have not endorsed any of the proposers in the KCI terminal competition. But the council faces a relatively stark choice, with time running out: It can accept Edgemoor as the winning bidder, or it can reject the selection and start over.
Some council members disagree with this legal analysis. They think they should be able to substitute another bidder, perhaps Burns & McDonnell or AECOM, before approving the ordinance. That seems like poor reasoning on practical grounds alone. Members of the terminal selection committee sat through presentations from all four terminal proposers, discussed the plans at length and are in the best position to judge the relative merits of the plans.
Substituting a different bidder would allow council members to replace the committee’s work with their own less informed conclusions. That would prompt legal scrutiny and would add to the chaos surrounding the project.
And it would be a mistake to reject all bids. Starting over at this late date would almost certainly doom the November election, leaving Kansas City further away from a new terminal than ever.
Remember, council members will not surrender their final authority if they vote to proceed. They will still be able to consider and amend the final MOU with Edgemoor — ensuring the document will contain suitable protections for minority business participation, completion dates, penalties, costs and the like.
We’re greatly encouraged by reports that Edgemoor is meeting quietly with the council members and some interest groups to address their concerns. We’ve seen nothing to date that suggests the process should be delayed beyond Thursday, with a final MOU signed before Nov. 7.
Having said all this, we remain concerned that the selection committee hasn’t made its decision matrix available to the press and public.
Council members can’t be asked to approve Edgemoor without some understanding of why the committee opted for Edgemoor. The public still needs to “see the work” from committee members.
Allegations continue to surface that the committee process violated city ordinances and state law. Those accusations may surface again this week.
Such claims are inevitable in the absence of clear information about the process.
Voters have been told Edgemoor’s financing options were superior to other bidders’ plans, its qualifications equal to any other proposer, and its commitments to inclusiveness were close to those from other companies.
The City Council must see that in writing. If that happens — before Thursday — the council should approve Edgemoor and put the airport terminal project on firm footing before Election Day.