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People Still Have Questions And Concerns About New KCI Plan, Even After Bids Open Up

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
Citizens voice concerns over a proposed single terminal KCI plan at the latest public hearing.

At the Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center Monday night, a Kansas City Council committee held the first public hearing on a new airport since opening the bidding process to additional firms.  

Kansas City firm Burns and McDonnell quietly presented the city with a proposal last month to build a new, privately-financed, single terminal airport. The proposal allegedly protects the city from financial risk while allowing ownership and operation of the airport to remain in city hands.

But last week, Mayor James responded to appeals from other firms and announced the city would open the bidding for the next three weeks.

Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Jim Rebman doesn't think Kansas City can support a $1 billion new airport.

Jolie Justus, co-chair of the airport committee, says whatever is going on at City Hall does not alter what she wants to learn from public hearings.

“Which is, what do people want to see out of KCI, what do they like, what do they dislike and how can we move forward,” Justus says.

Councilwoman Justus, Councilmen Jermaine Reed, Kevin McManus and Dan Fowler got an earful on what people want - and don't want. 

Salesman Jim Rebman told the committee he doesn’t buy the idea we need a new $1 billion airport. He distrusts the promise that taxpayers won't bear any of the cost.

“Yeah, and I’m the smartest man in the room,” Rebman says sarcastically.

Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Cab driver Terry Asplund says his clients say they love the convenience of KCI as it is.

He says Kansas City is never going to be a major airline hub that can sustain big city expenses.

“We’re not gonna compete with Chicago, Denver, or Dallas. We're basically a large regional airport.”  

Terry Asplund drives a taxi cab and says Uber has already dealt an almost fatal blow to his business. He told the committee that building a single terminal will only  make things worse.

“We’re going to just have more problems getting in and out with one gigantic terminal,” he says.

But Ernestine Davis and William Tunley are looking forward to a cleaner airport with more amenities.

Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Ernestine Davis and William Tunley think Kansas City needs a new airport to prosper.

“Kansas City is trying to grow,” Davis says.”We won’t grow if we’re stuck in the past. We need to move forward and now’s the time.”

All proposals for the Kansas City airport are due by June 20th.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter and producer. You can reach her on twitter @laurazig or by email at lauraz@kcur.org.

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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