The city and the Aviation Department grounded facts that the mayor's KCI task force should have seen 

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Chris Hernandez, the city spokesman, fielded questions instead. He could not identify where the 30 percent figure came from.

"[K]eep in mind that in the prior years we did have multiple occasions where we were out of compliance," Hernandez says. "Also, going forward, regulations regarding airfield runoff will continue to change and we want to ensure that we are positioned to comply."

The reticence may be the result of a year's worth of mixed messages and contradictions since that initial PR campaign. Some of the claims made a year ago have not withstood scrutiny.

There may be a strong case for a single-terminal airport, but the city has run into trouble trying to sell what could amount to a $1 billion capital project, one of the biggest in Kansas City's history.

"I think the way it was presented, I think if we had to do things over again, I think we would start with the commission and then go from there," says City Councilman Ed Ford, an initial single-terminal skeptic who says he now sees the current facility's deficiencies.

The commission that Ford mentions is the Airport Terminal Advisory Group, or ATAG. Mayor Sly James hand-picked the 24-member task force in May 2013, as discussion over the city's push for a single-terminal KCI grew louder.

Kansas City mayors traditionally opt for task forces and advisory groups whenever City Hall is tackling weighty issues, and James' ATAG assemblage adheres to a playbook basic: familiar faces. Among those tapped were former Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Bill Skaggs and original KCI designer Bob Berkebile, a co-chairman alongside retired audit-firm manager David Fowler.

James also cleverly appointed Kevin Koster, the Northland marketing executive who had started the savekci.org website and was among the most visible single-terminal nonbelievers. His inclusion gave ATAG a semblance of balance, defusing criticism that the committee was stacked to deliver a specific outcome: namely, the single-terminal direction that the city appeared to favor.

James said at a May 7 press conference that he didn't know how any member of ATAG felt about the airport except Koster, who had made his position clear with his website. But Berkebile had made his position known publicly in a 2012 Kansas City Star article, in which he said KCI's design was outdated.

ATAG committee members had three options to pick from by the end of a year's worth of analysis:

• Construct a single terminal.

• Build a new centralized receiving point for passengers that would connect to the three terminals.

• Expand and repurpose existing terminals, with each having its own centralized security checkpoint.

ATAG in May delivered a recommendation for a single-terminal airport.

"It's striking that the do-nothing option did not prevail," James said during that May 7 press conference that revealed the ATAG endorsement.

That's because a "do nothing" option — one calling only for basic renovations — wasn't made available to ATAG members in making the final proposal. It was on the table early in the discussions but seemed to disappear as ATAG deliberations approached an end.

Berkebile, the principal architect in local firm BNIM who co-chaired ATAG, tells The Pitch that the minimal-renovation option went away because the money required would have done nothing to resolve the current airport's problems.

"It felt like [for] us to pick that as an alternative, knowing that spending that money didn't accomplish the removal of any of the current deficiencies, was an irresponsible recommendation," Berkebile says.

But fiscal responsibility wasn't at the heart of ATAG's decision. The group had few cost estimates available for any of the three plans it discussed.

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