Development Agreement On New KCI Terminal One Step Closer To Approval

Feb 1, 2018

Almost a month and a half ago, Edgemoor was on the verge of being dropped as the developer to build a new terminal at Kansas City International airport.

Nine city council members rejected a memorandum of understanding with the Maryland-based developer. A measure had been introduced to drop them from the billion-dollar project altogether and proceed with competitor AECOM.

Next week, Edgemoor could be before the same body — this time, with a new project agreement and what appears to be a more favorable audience. 

Kansas City's airport committee, on a 6-0 vote, approved a revised MOU on Thursday to send to the full council for debate and a vote with a recommendation of "do pass." 

The measure needs seven votes to pass next week. Although council members seemed happy with the agreement as it stood on Thursday, councilwoman Jolie Justus isn't ready to call it a done deal.

"We do not yet know whether all nine of those people (who previously rejected the MOU) are happy with the revised MOU so we will be working with the council to make sure those concerns have been addressed," Justus says. 

The turnaround comes after a brief pause to re-set over the holidays, followed by several weeks of back and forth between Edgemoor and the city. 

The new MOU includes a more robust community benefits package, which includes free or subsidized transportation options and licensed child care for workers.

It also adds contributions to several charitable organizations throughout the city and an apprenticeship program that would train workers and guarantee jobs on the project. 

Edgemoor has pledged 35 percent participation for minority and women-owned firms. That breaks down to 20 percent minority-owned and 15 percent women-owned firms. 

On Thursday, councilman Quinton Lucas, who teaches contract law at the University of Kansas, suggested his own language to the agreement that would hold Edgemoor accountable to those goals. 

"We campaigned saying that this would be a game changer for people in minority communities, a game changer for organized labor, a game changer for a number of groups. I'm trying to make sure that in the contract terms we actually have that there," Lucas says.  

Organized labor groups are pushing for an all-union project. The agreement does not address that concern, and Edgemoor has previously said they cannot reach minority hiring goals on a 100 percent union project. 

The new agreement provides more detail on Edgemoor's financing model for the project. They've committed to 100 percent debt-only financing, which they estimate will save the city $90 million. 

The MOU also addresses a reimbursement provision that would leave the city on the hook to repay Edgemoor for services completed in the event the project is terminated early. 

This was a sticking point for several city officials who voted down the pervious version.

Originally, the maximum the city would have had to pay was $30 million. That cap has been reduced to $23.2 million and none of the work done by Edgemoor prior to November's election, in which residents overwhelmingly approved construction of a new terminal, would be eligible for reimbursement. 

Councilwoman Alissia Canady, who is not on the airport committee, was among the nine that rejected the previous agreement. She says her main concerns have been resolved. 

"I'd like the (value of the) community benefits to be $50 million if possible but we're dealing in realities and there are some limitations to be had," Canady says.

"I think if people are too greedy in negotiations you lost out in the end. The city has invested a lot of time and money in this process and I think what we have right now is a good deal for Kansas City."

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter at newscaster at KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig