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New KCI takes step forward after council approves several project agreements

New KCI Render
Posted at 4:37 PM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-01 00:00:34-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The process to build a new single-terminal airport in Kansas City took a big step forward Thursday after city council members voted on several components of the project, including a 666-page development agreement.

The vote passed 11 to 1.

"This will be a watershed moment for the project," Councilman Jermaine Reed said.

The documents include a development agreement with Edgemoor, plus a pledge from the developer to exceed city goals for minority and women-owned business participation on the project. Council also approved a community benefits agreement and the airlines' term sheets.

Now that the agreements have the green light, the aviation department says a groundbreaking can be scheduled for sometime in March. The new terminal is expected to open in early 2023.

"This is a good day for Kansas City. That's the only thing that matters," said Mayor Sly James, "It's taken seven years, and for people who have been here for three to think that they know everything is really somewhat silly."

The mayor's comment alluded to remarks made by Councilwoman Alissia Canady, the only "no" vote on Thursday. Canady criticized the process as "mired with missteps," including broken promises that the project would be transformative for minority and women-owned businesses.

"We fell short in a number of areas, and I just wasn't willing to be a rubber stamp on this deal when I knew we left a lot on the table," she said.

Certain community benefits, like a donation to Love Thy Neighbor, were cut from the agreement after the FAA determined the items violated its policy for use of airport revenue. At the time Edgemoor said it would consider paying for the rejected items through a charitable contribution from the Clark Construction Group.

While Canady voted against the series of agreements, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner was a surprise yes. He explained his concerns surround not the agreement itself, but the details of financing. Those ordinances will be discussed at an airport committee meeting next week.

"From my perspective it's all about the financing. It's all about the numbers. It's all about how you actually pay for things," he said.

Council members must decide how to pay Edgemoor for the $23 million it has spent on the project so far, plus estimated $48 million of work ahead until bond revenue comes in. Wagner is advocating for the introduction of equity, but Airport Committee Chair Jolie Justus did not list that as an option on the table.

"The reality is we're going to have a conversation about whether we do external borrowing to keep the project moving forward, or whether we have the money to incrementally handle that internally," she said.

Noticeably absent from the council meeting was Councilwoman Teresa Loar, who has been a critic of the new KCI process. She was traveling back to Kansas City from a conference but said she likely would have voted "yes" since the airlines signed the term sheet.

Before the council could vote on the term sheet with the airlines, the term sheet required the support of airlines that combined to represent at least 60 percent of the landing weight at KCI.

41 Action News learned on Wednesday that Southwest, Delta, United, Alaska, UPS, FedEx and American have all signed-off on the $1.5 billion project. The term sheet is one aspect of a larger use and lease agreement, which involves a nine-year lease.

Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier Airlines did not sign off on the agreement. An airport official said those airlines will have to pay a premium to use their airport.