KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A number of Missouri legislators from the Kansas City region are expressing serious concern about how the city is handling the procurement process for the modernization of Kansas City International Airport.
Their reason for concern? Allegations that the process did not properly follow the procurement laws in place for the city of the state.
One contract bidder, Burns & McDonnell, is saying their team should be reinstated as part of the process of selecting a development group to design, build and finance a new one-terminal airport. Their outfit has been christened as the KCI Hometown Team
Burns & McDonnell, along with another team, Jones Lang LaSalle, was disqualified from consideration for the roughly $1 billion contract.
Instead, the Airport Selection Committee recommended Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, a firm from Maryland, to build the airport, which it announced on Sept. 6.
The selection committee had found that Burns & McDonnell’s proposal was “not consistent with the city’s Master Bond Ordinance requirements” and did not “meet the city’s finance parameters for the project.” The committee contended that the Jones Lang LaSalle team’s proposal was found “nonresponsive and deficient in providing required information in several key areas.”
“As such,” the memo stated, “the selection committee did not advance these two proposers in the selection process” — leaving the committee to decide between the proposals from Edgemoor and a team led by AECOM.
During a Monday news conference, Burns & McDonnell Senior Vice President Ron Coker said the firm was asking that all four teams seeking the contract advance so that the full City Council could make a decision, or restart the selection.
Chuck Hatfield, an attorney representing Burns & McDonnell, called the committee’s decision to recommend one proposal to the City Council a “fundamental breakdown in the procurement process.”
It’s a sentiment shared by several Kansas City lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Here’s what they had to say:
- Senator Ryan Silvey, 17th District:
“Section 3-31(c)(2) of KC Ordinance says that all submissions ‘shall be ranked. One of the first things you learn when dealing with the law is that ‘shall’ is absolute. Based on what I have read, it appears the process did not follow the procurement laws in place for the city or the State of Missouri, as neither has an option of ‘disqualification,’ or ‘fail to advance.’ After reading the opinions of the top Bond counsel in Missouri, and reviewing the Missouri Constitution, it is clear a “net revenue” pledge to do private financing is not specifically authorized in the Missouri Constitution. This project is too important to the region for the City Council to rely on a plan that leaves questions as to whether it complies with the Constitution and laws of the State of Missouri.”
- Senator Jason Holsman, 7th District:
“This shouldn’t be that complicated. There are a handful of engineering firms in all 50 states that are capable of tackling a building project of this size and we are fortunate that one of them calls Kansas City home. We should support a plan that locally circulates the economic development investment with engineers who live in our neighborhoods, send their kids to our schools and spend their earnings in our local economy. Having represented the men and women who work for Burns and McDonnell in the Missouri legislature for over a decade, I’ve witnessed the strength of their corporate character, the quality of their finished work and encourage the city council to remove the artificial obstacles impeding their selection as the design team of choice for Kansas City.”
- Rep. Mike Cierpiot, 30th District- House Majority Floor Leader:
“While I am not fully convinced we need a new airport, if one is to be put before voters it should be a plan that uses the world class local talent we have right in our own backyard. These are our friends and neighbors. We know they will be accountable to us because they live here. It is further troubling to read the opinions presented by the top legal minds in Missouri who say the process violates city and state laws, as well as the Constitution of Missouri. The city council has the authority to remedy this situation by reinstating and considering all four proposals or restarting this process.”
- Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, 26th District- House Minority Floor Leader:
“Yesterday’s legal opinions certainly beg the question about whether or not this process followed the laws of Kansas City and the State of Missouri. Burns & McDonnell is a 119-year-old Kansas City company with a proven record for quality work and a commitment to investing in our community. It is clear their team is absolutely committed to this city and doing the project the right way for everyone in Kansas City. I hope the council will use their ability to reconsider our Hometown team.”
- Rep. DaRon McGee, 36th District:
“I have studied the city ordinances governing a qualifications-based selection process, and it is clear to me that the city selection committee violated these ordinances and its own request for qualifications by not ranking the qualifications of all four groups of proposers as required. The only way for the citizens of Kansas City to be assured the city is getting the best deal possible for this massive project is to have the most competition possible. Tossing out two of the four proposals and not evaluating the qualifications of all four proposals is a clear violation of the city’s own ordinances. It raises serious questions about the fairness of the selection process and whether the city is doing everything it can to get the best deal possible.”
- State Representative Greg Razer, 25th District:
“With the evidence and legal opinions presented, it appears legal authority was lacking to disqualify or not advance KC’s Hometown Team. On behalf of the thousands of employees and their families who are employed by the Hometown Team – including many who live right here in the 25th House district – it only seems fair that they receive full consideration before the City Council.”
The full city council now has to approve Edgemoor before it would go to a public vote in November. If approved, construction could start by summer 2018, with completion around November 2021.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.