Page 4 of 5
"In the end, as we were trying to make space and time for everyone, the assumption was, those regulator issues were mandatory — it wasn't an either-or situation," Berkebile says when asked why no one from the EPA was summoned. "I didn't see it as critical to us to hear from those stakeholders."
Given that KCI doesn't appear to be in the EPA's cross hairs, despite the city's contention that the facility doesn't meet the regulator's standards, perhaps such testimony wouldn't have been productive.
But when other so-called stakeholders did testify, they sometimes contradicted other Aviation Department claims. For instance: on the matter of airport security.
The Aviation Department pressed media, including The Pitch, on the idea that security at KCI was inefficient in its current state. The argument seemed logical enough; many airports had to drastically change their layouts to meet new security protocols after 9/11. The April 2013 fact sheet said the Transportation Security Administration's Pre-Check program was impossible at KCI because of the airport's circular gate configuration.
Pre-Check is a relatively new TSA program that allows preapproved travelers who don't pose a security threat to pass more quickly through security screenings. The program is thought to alleviate strain at security checkpoints, and it's friendly to businesspeople who travel often.
But the Aviation Department's April 2013 fact sheet was the same one that said KCI didn't meet nonexistent EPA standards, and it was wrong again. Pre-Check started in Terminal B in October 2013.
City spokesman Hernandez deferred to the TSA questions regarding why Pre-Check materialized at KCI.
"They change the rules rather often," he says.
TSA spokesman Mark Howell says the availability of Pre-Check depends on capacity in a concourse, adding that Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines can accommodate the service in Terminal B where there's room for multiple lines.
"It's nothing that's changed with the rules," Howell tells The Pitch.
The security rationale didn't fare better this past March, when John Della Jacono, the TSA administrator in charge of KCI, testified at City Hall. He told ATAG that there would be no appreciable difference in security between KCI today and any KCI of the future.
"I've been there for five years," Jacono said on March 25. "You can tell why citizens of this city love this airport. They don't wait."
Jacono painted a picture of an airport that runs efficiently from a security standpoint, one that can process 150 passengers an hour at each checkpoint and can move a high volume of baggage.
"One system processes 400 bags an hour in the bowels of the airport," Jacono said. "We have more than enough capability and capacity to handle anything the airlines can give us as far as bags are concerned."
Jacono said a centralized security checkpoint probably wouldn't have an effect on passenger wait times, which now rarely exceed an aggregate 10 minutes.
"It really doesn't matter how you configure it," Jacono told ATAG members. "We're going to staff that configuration, and our goal is going to be the same: under-10-minute waits."
Some ATAG members were displeased with Jacono's testimony.
"I think he was being politically correct and saying, whatever the design, they would be able to make it work," says Forestine Beasley, a real-estate agent and ATAG member.
Beasley was one of a few ATAG members who did not vote in favor of a single-terminal airport design, opting instead for renovation because cost estimates were not made available.