The Kansas City Council on Thursday approved a memorandum of understanding with Maryland-based Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate to build a billion-dollar new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
"This is where we were supposed to be," said Kansas City Mayor Sly James following the 8-5 vote.
James, along with council members Dan Fowler, Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed, Katheryn Shields, Jolie Justus, Alissia Canady and Kevin McManus, voted in favor of the MOU. Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner and council members Heather Hall, Teresa Loar, Lee Barnes and Scott Taylor voted against.
The new MOU includes a more robust package of benefits for the community, such as free or subsidized transportation options and licensed child care for workers.
It also adds contributions to several charitable organizations throughout the city and an apprenticeship program that would train workers and guarantee jobs on the project.
Additionally, Edgemoor made firm commitments to hiring minority and women-owned businesses in all phases of the project, which had been a sticking point for council members.
Thursday's vote came after renewed anti-Edgemoor efforts by the Black Chamber of Commerce. Citing insufficient minority hiring goals, the chamber called on the council to drop the developer and begin negotiations with AECOM, the second-ranked proposer in the bidding process.
The Hispanic Contractors Association of Greater Kansas City also called on the council to reject the Edgemoor MOU. HCA president Alex Gonzalez says multiple efforts to reach out to Edgemoor went ignored, and he worries the company won't be willing to collaborate with Latino-owned businesses.
On Wednesday, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner wrote a lengthy Facebook post casting doubt on Edgemoor partners Clark Construction and architecture firm SOM.
Those companies are leading airport projects at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, which is over budget and behind schedule.
Passing this milestone doesn't mean Edgemoor's place on the project is safe. The MOU is non-binding and the city can still withdraw. (Although once the MOU is signed, Kansas City will be on the hook to pay Edgemoor for any design work or environmental studies up to $23.2 million.)
Lucas says it would take something calamitous for the city to walk away from the agreement.
The developer and the city still have to agree on a design and maximum price tag for the terminal.
Also outstanding is any sort of agreement on how much of the project will consist of union jobs. Labor groups have called for that number to be 100 percent, but Edgemoor hasn't been willing to agree, saying that committing to an all-union project could keep it from meeting minority hiring goals.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.