Kansas City residents will finally have a chance to vote on a proposal for a new KCI Airport during the upcoming election.
On Thursday, Aug. 24, the Kansas City City Council unanimously approved an ordinance seeking approval from Kansas City residents to build a new passenger terminal at Kansas City International Airport. Discussion over possible renovations to the existing terminals or building a new terminal has been going on for years with Kansas City mayor Sly James repeatedly saying the matter would go before voters.
The first such ballot question will finally happen in 2017.
The ballot language will read: “Shall the City of Kansas City be authorized to construct a new passenger terminal at Kansas City International Airport and demolish existing terminals as necessary, with all costs paid solely from the revenues derived by the City from the operation of its airports and related facilities, and without the issuance of general airport revenue bonds unless such general airport revenue bonds have received prior voter approval?” Voters will be asked to select “yes” or “no” with a simple majority needed for passage.
The move made last week allows the council to later pick the winning bid for the project.
“The ballot language provides the flexibility the city needs to move forward on this important project,” said Kansas City fourth district councilmember Jolie Justus, who serves as the council’s airport committee chairperson. “We’ve had a great deal of community input, and now, as promised, we are asking KC voters to make their voices heard on airport redevelopment.”
Previously, the city pursued a project that would involve the issuance of municipal general airport revenue bonds, which the city would repay using airport fees. However, concern over taxpayers being responsible for bond payments if the airlines defaulted led James to stop the process in May of 2016.
At the time, the city council heard projections of cost for a renovation vs. a new facility with airline carriers supporting the latter. Priced at more than $1 billion, new construction was seen as cheaper with a chance to address some of the airport’s operational inefficiencies.
Some supporters of the current layout have championed the ease of accessibility, while frequent flyers bemoan the lack of amenities in the aging structure — built in the early 1970s.
Burns and McDonnell — an engineering firm in Kansas City, Mo. — came to the city council earlier this summer with a private financing option in which the company would issue the bonds and repay them from airport user fees. In exchange, the City of Kansas City would give Burns and McDonnell the right to the design and construction project.
Later, the council gave any private companies the opportunity to place a bid for the project.
A selection committee has been going over proposals made by AECOM, Burns and McDonnell, Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate and Jones Land LaSalle. The committee plans to announce its recommendation on Thursday, Aug 31.
The city council would then need to approve a memorandum of agreement with the winning team.
“We are so supportive of this economic development,” Riverside Mayor Kathy Rose told The Kansas City Star. “It is important for Platte County.”