City spending hundreds of thousands for outside perspective on KCI proposal

Posted at 7:37 PM, May 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 20:37:43-04

A week and a half after announcing a proposal to privately finance a single terminal at Kansas City International Airport, Burns & McDonnell is trying to convince Kansas City to get on board.

Tuesday night a full house gathered at the Airport Marriott to learn more details of the proposal. 

“We have always been thinking about ways to do the airport,” said Mike Talboy, the government affairs director at Burns & McDonnell. 

Under the current memorandum of understanding (MOU), Burns & McDonnell would lead a team of private investors to finance a single-terminal airport. Eventually, their investment would be repaid with airport usage fees, such as parking, concession sales and passenger airline fees. 

The company’s rate of return on its investment has not yet been determined. 

“It will not touch a single city dollar,” said Talboy.

Kansas City mayor Sly James and city manager Troy Schulte have already announced support for the proposal. But other council members, like Quinton Lucas, are not on board just yet.

"This didn’t go through the normal vetting process. We didn’t go through a competitive bidding process so to make sure the flying public gets the best value, the best airport, we need to make sure we don’t sign away special rights for 30 or 35 years,” Lucas told 41 Action News. 

Last week, Lucas led an initiative to hire outside counsel to review the “unique proposal.” 

City council ultimately agreed to spend $475,000 on two independent law firms to look over the MOU. The money is coming from the city’s aviation fund, an account used specifically for airport needs. 

"We are actually looking at spending money in ways we weren’t before,” said Lucas. "Had we done our normal public infrastructure floated bonds and that sort of thing we probably wouldn’t be looking at these outside lawyers right now to help us understand what this deal is.” 

Another public hearing on the future of KCI is scheduled for Thursday, May 25 at 9:15 a.m. on the 26th floor of City Hall.