Don’t roll over for Mayor Sly James on no-bid KCI plan

Burns & McDonnell and Kansas City officials announce a new KCI terminal plan last week.

Burns & McDonnell and Kansas City officials announce a new KCI terminal plan last week.

Kansas City Council members are raising some of the right questions about Burns & McDonnell’s no-bid plan to build a new airport terminal.

We’ll see how much progress the council members make on Thursday, when they and Mayor Sly James are scheduled to further discuss the nearly $1 billion project.

The proposal could be worth passing at City Hall and giving to voters. But despite James’ support for it, we don’t know that yet.

True, labor groups back the big project because of the jobs it would create. But that doesn’t mean the Burns & McDonnell proposal is the best one for KCI passengers who ultimately will pay for it.

Here are some questions that council members so far seem to be properly wanting answers to:

— Where’s the independent legal counsel who can evaluate the memorandum of understanding proposed by City Manager Troy Schulte?

— Why does this plan have to be  rushed through City Hall in as little as a month?

— When will Kansas Citians know what the project would look like? In short, will it keep the “convenience” so many people love about KCI?

I’d add at least two things to the list.

— Let’s hear from other Kansas City-area firms — including Black & Veatch, HNTB and HOK (a big player in the airport terminal architecture business) — about what they think about the proposal.

— And the city should have an independent contractor evaluate the plan, separate from the MOU probe.

James and other supporters continue to contend that Burns & McDonnell’s is the only proposal on the scene  right now and Kansas Citians need to rush to  the polls and render a verdict on it in November.

Even as a general backer of a new terminal, I truly don’t yet know if the Burns & McDonnell deal is the best one out there from a financial point of view or in design.

City Council members should take at least a few weeks, and possibly a few months, to see whether it is, with the help of independent outsiders.

Who knows? They could determine that no one can match the Burns & McDonnell plan and it should be pursued as soon as possible.

Or … outside consultants could find now-hidden problems with it, squelching the notion that it should be placed before voters unless major changes are made.

Either way, the council should not roll over and play dead for Mayor James on this major project.