KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Talks over a possible new terminal at KCI International Airport took another turn on Thursday with the passage of an ordinance and a proposal by a City Council member on how to pay for the project.
City Council nearly voted unanimously on a measure that allows council members to take the reigns working with legal advisors on the final terms that will be put up for a vote this November.
City Councilman Quinton Lucas told 41 Action News that the ordinance would help avoid some of the missteps that have plagued the talks in recent weeks.
“The process has been inconsistent. It's fair to say that this has not reflected Kansas City at its best,” said Lucas, who recently complained about a lack of communication on the project between city leaders. “One day we have one thing, the next day we've changed it and then we rescind something again. That's why we took this action today."
Lucas said the ordinance would allow City Council to have more control over the pace and timing of the talks moving forward.
The move came as ideas for a possible new terminal continue to come in from airport design firms.
Lucas told 41 Action News that almost half a dozen firms had submitted requests to be considered in the project.
As a result of Thursday’s ordinance passage and the continued interest from firms on the project, Lucas said the June 20th deadline for ideas would likely be pushed back to late July or sometime in August.
“We heard from a lot of folks that said, ‘We can't come up with a proposal in two weeks or three weeks,’” he explained. “There was some questions as to whether we were making a good opportunity for different competitors and those interested in the project to take part."
The ordinance was passed on the same day City Councilwoman Katheryn Shields brought forward a request to pay for the project using public money.
Shields told 41 Action News that she planned to call on the city to use airport revenue bonds to pay for the possible new terminal instead of private financing.
“The main issue I have is that private financing is more expensive,” she explained. “We could pay for the new terminal with airport revenue provided by the airlines, parking, and concessions.”
Shields pointed to interest rates on the private financing likely leading to hundreds of millions of dollars more that the city would have to pay off.
Burns & McDonnell, who first submitted an unsolicited bid for a new terminal last month, put forward a plan involving the private financing.
Shields explained that airport revenue bonds put no risk on taxpayers, while the high cost of interest rates for private financing could end up leading to consequences for the airlines or new terminal project.
“When you're talking about a billion dollars spread over 30 years, you can easily be talking about an additional $400 million,” the councilwoman said. “We could end up having to charge the airlines more for landing at KCI or we have to shrink the project."
This week’s KCI developments also included an e-mail from Southwest Airlines Director of Airport Affairs Steve Sisneros to KCMO Aviation Department Director Pat Klein.
In the e-mail, Sisneros said the airlines involved in the KCI new terminal talks wanted to see a vote “as soon as possible.”
Sisneros also said if the issue was further delayed or pushed down the line, cost estimates for the project would likely need to be done over again.
After Thursday’s developments, City Council hoped the changes would lead to a smoother process down the line.
“Even though it's been hectic, I think we're moving and gaining more clarity,” explained Councilwoman Shields.
City Council still expects to hold a public vote on November 9th this year on whether or not a new KCI terminal should be built.
Next Tuesday, city leaders will hold more talks on the future of KCI.