Ready for Take Off!

Will plans for a new airport terminal make it off the ground?

By John Sharp

KCMO voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, November 7, to decide whether to authorize the city to construct a new single passenger terminal at Kansas City International Airport to replace the existing three terminals.

The ballot language for Question 1 states, “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?”

The new 35-gate terminal which will be expandable to 42 gates will be built on the site of Terminal A which has been closed for several years, allowing terminals B and C to continue to operate until the new terminal is ready for use which is projected to be in 2021.

The cost of construction will be paid for by the airlines using the airport and by revenue generated at the city’s “airports and related facilities” such as parking and concessions.  Proponents of the measure have stressed during the campaign that persons who don’t use the airport will not have to pay for it.

City Manager Troy Schulte told the October 18 meeting of the Southern Communities Coalition that Southwest Airlines representatives told him that the airline was routing 15 connecting flights through St. Louis instead of Kansas City because of the inadequacies of our terminals and poor passenger experience while waiting for connecting flights.

The selected developer for the project – Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate headquartered in Bethesda, Md. – has agreed to construct the terminal according to a fact sheet prepared by the city for a not-to-exceed cost “similar to the plan agreed to by the airlines and presented to the City Council two years ago.  That plan was for a $964 million terminal (2015 dollars).”

Material distributed by Edgemoor said it has committed to 20 percent participation in construction by minority-owned firms and 15 percent participation by women-owned firms and to 17 percent participation in professional services by minority-owned firms and 12 percent participation by women-owned firms, exceeding the city’s goals in all categories.

Question 1 has been endorsed by numerous business, labor and civic groups including the South Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Board of the South Kansas City Alliance (SKCA) that I serve on.

When endorsing it, the SKCA stated in writing that the endorsement was based on two factors:

The undisputed need to modernize KCI to help spur continued economic growth and attract additional domestic and international flights, and

The repeated public statements by representatives of Edgemoor that the firm will prioritize partnering with local companies on the project and will exceed the city’s goals for participation by women-owned and minority-owned businesses and work force participation by women and minorities.

Geoffrey Stricker, managing director of Edgemoor, publicly stated at the October 9 SKCA meeting that by the following week Edgemoor should start announcing local firms that will be included in the project, but at press time the only local firm known to be included is Clarkson Construction which is part of its original team.

Also, at press time the city still does not have a signed legally binding memorandum of understanding with Edgemoor detailing the terms of their agreement.  Hopefully, both these omissions can be corrected prior to the November 7 vote.

The only group I know of that is publicly opposed to the project is Citizens for Responsible Government (CFRG) which favors renovation of the existing terminals instead.

Speaking at the same Southern Communities Coalition as Schulte, Dan Coffey, treasurer and spokesman for the group, said reducing the number of gates at KCI will stifle growth and competition by airlines not now serving Kansas City.

He criticized the city for assigning the two busiest airlines serving Kansas City (Delta and Southwest) to the same terminal while closing Terminal A and neglecting basic terminal maintenance to make it look like a new terminal is needed.  He also said that greatly reducing the amount of curb space to unload passengers and funneling all boarding passengers through one security checkpoint will increase passenger inconvenience.

Kim Carroll, chief operating officer of Heart to Heart International, thanks and congratulates State Rep DaRon McGee and other supporters on October 27 for the successful water drive he organized for hurricane victims.  Shown with them are, from left, City Councilman Scott Taylor, former Councilman John Sharp and U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II.  The water in the background was dropped off at Fire Station 29 at 1414 E. 63rd St., and was just a small portion of the over 1,000 cases contributed by area residents.

Also on the ballot are Questions 2 and 3 to remove two parcels of property from the city’s park system that the Park Board has determined are no longer needed or appropriate for park, parkway or boulevard use.  Question 2 involves about a half-acre at E. 23rd St. & Locust that Children’s Mercy Hospital hopes to obtain for expansion.  Question 3 involves about 3 acres at E. 21st St. & Tracy which Western Baptist Bible College hopes to obtain to spur economic development in the area by constructing new housing.  The college was the first African American theology school west of the Mississippi River.

All surplus park property approved by voters for removal from the park system must be sold through a competitive bidding process.

Bannister Complex
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced October 19 that Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has granted approval for the federal government to transfer the vacant Bannister Federal Complex to a private developer that will be responsible for demolition and cleanup of contamination.

NNSA also announced it has finalized an environmental services cooperative agreement with Bannister Transformation & Development (BT&D) which clears the way for NNSA to transfer the property to BT&D, currently planned for mid-November.

“Our team has spent the past three years studying the property and planning this effort.  We are primed and ready to start work on the project when we take title to the property by November 15,” said Kevin Breslin, BT&D representative.

Breslin told me October 30 that it will take up to about four years to clean up contamination at the site and demolish the vacant buildings before redevelopment can begin.  He said plans call for developing about 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution facilities on the site expected to create about 1,000 new permanent jobs.  A relatively small portion of the site adjacent to Troost that is outside the flood wall may be developed for retail use.

Federal law prohibits the transfer of contaminated federal property without meeting rigorous oversight requirements including securing approval of the governor whose state is impacted.

Some buildings at the Bannister Complex are contaminated with asbestos, PCBs and beryllium used in manufacturing the non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons at the site.   Some soil and groundwater are contaminated with solvents, fuel and PCBs stretching back to several decades past when the site was used to manufacture aircraft engines.

An intensive investigation of the site recently conducted on behalf of CenterPoint Properties (the company that will serve as project manager for demolition and remediation at the site) also discovered additional contaminants that had not been reported previously.  These included a small amount of depleted uranium (which is less radioactive than natural uranium) found in shallow soil by one of the buildings.

The draft hazardous waste management facility permit for the site issued by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was modified as a result of this discovery to note that machining of parts coated with a film of depleted uranium oxide was conducted in part of a building from 1958 until 1971.

Contractors who conducted the investigation said at a May 11 public meeting that some soil contamination goes as deep as 40 feet, and about 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil would be transported by rail to hazardous waste landfills.  They also explained that barrier walls that extend down to bedrock will be installed to prevent contaminated groundwater from migrating off site, and contaminated stormwater drainage pipes will be closed with concrete.

Breslin said some peripheral buildings on the site that were not used in manufacturing will be demolished first while sealed off interior decontamination is conducted in the manufacturing buildings by highly trained workers in full protective gear.  He said he hopes demolition of the manufacturing buildings can begin next summer.

NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz said in the announcement, “The decision to transfer the property to a private developer will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars compared to the cost if the government were to complete this decommissioning on its own.”

Besides gaining title to the property, BT&D will be paid for demolition and cleanup of contamination.  The omnibus appropriations bill that passed Congress and was signed into law by the president earlier this year included $200 million for disposition of the complex.

“Transferring this surplus federal property to a private developer for demolition and remediation will allow for a faster, more efficient transformation and repurposing of this site,” said DNR Director Carol Comer.

NNSA employees at the complex were relocated to the new National Security Campus on Botts Rd. north of 150 Highway in 2014, and General Services Administration employees were relocated to downtown offices in early 2015.  The Marine Corp information technology data center located in a newer facility on the eastern portion of the site that is not being transferred to private ownership will remain on the site.

New Restaurants at Ward Parkway
Ward Parkway Shopping Center celebrated the three new sit-down restaurants at its southside restaurant pavilion with a ribbon cutting October 26 at the pavilion’s covered outdoor plaza and announced a 4th restaurant – Freezing Rolls – expected to open in spring 2018.

Already open are Smitty’s Garage which features all types of burgers and fresh-cut French fries and Charleston’s which offers made-from-scratch traditional American classics.  MidiCi, the Neopolitan Pizza Co., which bakes pizzas in less than two minutes at 900 degrees in wood-fired Italian ovens is expected to open any day.  All three have applied for city licenses to serve liquor by the drink on the adjoining outdoor plaza.

Freezing Rolls is a locally owned Thai-style ice cream shop featuring ice cream rolls made by pouring a milk-based liquid over frozen steel surfaces, spreading the mixture thinly and then scrapping it off at an angle to form rolls of ice cream which are served in cups with a wide selection of toppings.  It will also offer non-alcoholic beverages.

Legislative Panel
The South Kansas City Alliance (SKCA) will host its annual panel of area legislators discussing key issues expected to be considered during the 2018 session of the Missouri General Assembly at its monthly meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, November 13, at the South Patrol Police Station.

The SKCA’s 2018 state legislative priorities are to create a strong prescription drug monitoring program to reduce deaths caused by opioid overdoses; to approve fees that support 9-1-1 costs; increase funding on highways and transportation, and retain retain existing state economic development incentives.

Library Hours
Beginning January 2, 2018, Mid-Continent Public Library (MCPL) will implement new hours at each of its 31 branches across the metropolitan area, including Sunday hours at the three branches that serve south Kansas City:  Blue Ridge, Grandview and Red Bridge.

All three branches will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.  Saturday hours will switch from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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