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Kansas City Council Members Want Minority and Local Firms 'Sharing The Pie' For KCI Project

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BuildKCI

The City Council's Transportation, Infrastructure, and Operations Committee pushed for more minority and local businesses to help build the new KCI Terminal which is expected to be completed by April 2023.

Kansas City Council members objected today to awarding a lucrative KCI Airport contract to an out-of-town company.

They said the massive construction project must provide more opportunities for minorities, women and local labor.

“We have to do better with sharing the pie to make sure that minority-owned companies and women-owned companies are able to grow through this project,” City Councilwoman Melissa Robinson said during the Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations Committee meeting.

The committee voted 4-1 against awarding an approximately $80 million airfield paving contract to a Colorado firm over a rival St. Joseph, Mo. firm. The committee majority supported a plan to seek best and final offers again from both bidders, and the full Council votes on that plan Thursday.

The discussion highlighted frustrations council members have repeatedly expressed that Kansas City International Airport’s $1.5 billion new terminal project is not turning out to be a financial game-changer for local firms.

Committee members Katheryn Shields, Kevin O’Neill and Eric Bunch joined Robinson in questioning the construction manager’s recommendation to award the concrete contract to ESCO Construction Co. of Colorado over Ideker Inc. of St. Joseph. Councilwoman Teresa Loar voted to give ESCO the contract.

ESCO’s bid was $1.5 million lower than Ideker’s and included about $23 million for women and minority owned firms.

But Robinson and others were concerned that, of that $23 million, only $3 million was for minority-owned firms and the other $20 million was for just one firm, G2 Construction, owned by Lisa Garney whose father is longtime Kansas City developer Charles Garney,

“To say that you have $23M of MBE/WBE and only $3 million MBE is not acceptable,” Robinson said. “I’m going to ask you all to go back out and do a better job and make sure this is an equitable share of a project.”

Eric Taylor, senior vice president with ESCO, said the bid process was fair and competitive and urged the committee to let the contract go forward. He disputed comments that ESCO won’t use local workers.

“We will be using all local union Kansas City labor,” he said.

Paul Ideker, president of Ideker Inc., called for reconsideration of the contract award, arguing the KCI project is vital to the health and vitality of local union labor and minority firms. He said Ideker has prior experience working at KCI and had a plan to spread $18 million through nine local minority and women contracting companies.

Bridgette Williams, president of the Heavy Constructors of Greater Kansas City, said there needs to be a level playing field between local and out-of-state firms to compete for these projects.

“We really need to rethink how we’re doing business here and the city needs to take control and ownership over the promises that were made to the citizens, the companies and the voters,” she said.

Geoffrey Stricker, managing director of Edgemoor, the lead developer on the KCI terminal project, defended the contracting process to the committee.

One other contract came under scrutiny Wednesday. Councilman Lee Barnes wanted the Council to reject a contract with Kissick Construction Co for utility work at the KCI terminal and instead award it to the minority-owned firm Blue Nile.

“We’re presented with the rare opportunity to support a very well qualified minority business who has done a substantial amount of similar work for the city of Kansas City and other municipalities,” Barnes told the committee. But his proposal was rejected and will not advance to the full Council.

Lynn Horsley is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Follow her @LynnHorsley.

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