Updated, 4:56 p.m. Tuesday: There won't be a decision this week on a new terminal proposed for Kansas City International Airport.
Instead, the four teams that submitted proposals to build a single terminal KCI are being asked to answer four additional questions by Friday, when the airport selection committee reconvenes.
After the council went into closed session Tuesday afternoon, Karl Reichelt of the AECOM-led KCI Partnership approached reporters waiting outside the city manager's office to say the selection committee hadn't just asked clarifying questions – it had essentially asked teams to rebid their proposals.
“Our concern is that after we’ve all made our submittals and everything is public, they’re moving the goalposts on us,” Reichelt says. “And we want to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
Reichelt says KCI Partnership’s proposal came in $643 million less than the one submitted by Burns & McDonnell, and that’s all that should matter. Before his firm urged the city to open up the process for competitive bidding back in May, the city council seemed poised to rubber stamp an unsolicited proposal from Burns & McDonnell.
In radio spots voiced by George Brett, Burns & McDonnell has branded itself the “KCI HOMETOWN Team,” promising to award contracts to women- and minority-owned businesses. In a statement, Burns & McDonnell dismissed the concerns of AECOM, saying it was “standard” to ask for more information during the procurement process.
Although not on the airport selection committee, several councilmembers left Tuesday’s closed session with frustrations of their own.
Councilman Quinton Lucas has for weeks argued for a more transparent process.
“I don’t think the additional clarification is necessary at this point,” Lucas says. “I think we asked a good RFQP already, and I think frankly we should stick with the process as it existed.”
Councilwoman Teresa Loar says although she’s yet to see the additional questions asked of the four proposers, she thinks the KCI Partnership team might have a point.
“With this kind of money on the line, we don’t want this process to be corrupt at all,” Loar says. “AECOM is the biggest in the world. They build airports every day.”
Councilwoman Jolie Justus, who’s heading up the airport selection committee, says it’s still possible the city could make an announcement next week. The council must approve ballot language by Aug. 24 for the issue to go to voters in November.
Lisa Rodriguez contributed to this report.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.