Updated Friday, 4:30 p.m.
A resolution to end negotiations with Maryland-based Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate on a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport and proceed with competitor AECOM has been assigned to Kansas City’s airport committee for discussion Thursday.
AECOM was the second-choice of the airport selection committee.
Before announcing the assignment, Kansas City Mayor Sly James again expressed his severe disappointment with Thursday’s decision, accusing members of the city council of “playing politics” in order to kick Edgemoor off the project.
“It puts a stain on the city that I’ve worked for six and a half years to avoid. It’s a bad way to govern and it is a sham of a process when you do this,” James said.
Several councilmembers hoped James would assign the resolution to a Committee of a Whole, so the entire council could vote on it.
In a statement, AECOM said it’s ready to begin work with the city.
Edgemoor’s managing director Geoff Stricker says he’s willing to continue MOU negotiations and is confident his team will remain on new terminal project to its completion.
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In a surprise move, the Kansas City Council voted on Thursday not to proceed with negotiations for a memorandum of understanding with Maryland-based Edgemoor, the firm tapped to design, build and finance a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
The council met privately for more than an hour before the 9-to-4 vote. Before the closed session, councilman Lee Barnes expressed his desire to cut ties with the firm.
“I personally don’t think they’ve made the commitment to this city that requires us to move forward with (them on) a project that is this substantial,” Barnes said.
Barnes, along with several other council members, has previously expressed discontent with what Edgemoor was offering back to the community. He says the plans for transportation and childcare for airport construction workers and donations to community organizations were inadequate.
Councilman Quinton Lucas says he also had issues with a reimbursement agreement, which Lucas says had the city on the hook for up to $30 million in the event that the project was terminated early.
It's unclear how the city will decide to move forward. Councilwoman Jolie Justus says there are three options: continue negotiations with Edgemoor, terminate conversations with Edgemoor and start with Los Angeles-based AECOM (the second choice of the airport selection committee,) or start the procurement process from scratch.
Justus, who leads the city's airport committee, was one of four council members who voted to continue MOU negotiations with Edgemoor. She preferred to wait on a final vote until next week.
"Everything we've asked of Edgemoor so far they have said yes to... so we needed to have that extra week to go back and say, 'Are you OK with these additional items?'"
Mayor Sly James released a statement shortly after the council adjourned expressing his disappointment with the vote.
“Seventy five percent of Kansas City voters told us last month that they want to keep our momentum going by building a better KCI. It’s unfortunate that progress on the project will be slowed by today’s vote. This simply isn’t the way a city that values facts and data does business,” James said.
But Lucas is confident the new terminal can still be completed on time.
"This [MOU] could come back (before the council) next week, it could come back at the beginning of the year. But that won't change the timetable on our construction season, that really won't materially change when the bonds were going to be floated out on the market," Lucas says. "I think we're in the same position today as we were before today."
Over the last few weeks, Edgemoor has been conducting workshops across the city to gather input on the design. A workshop scheduled for Thursday evening was canceled.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig.