Kansas City International Airport
Patrick Tuohey

A few weeks ago, when engineering firm Burns & McDonnell announced its proposal to finance and build a new billion dollar single terminal at the Kansas City International Airport, it was doing so alone. But on Friday the firm announced the addition of, “Some of the most recognized Kansas City firms in architectural design for airport terminals and aviation facilities” to their team. Why?

When the original story broke on May 11, we learned that Burns & Mac has offered their own airport solution:

One key to the proposal for Burns & McDonnell is that it would get an exclusive arrangement with the city to provide the design and come up with a guaranteed maximum price.

Other firms would not have access to make their own offer, nor would the city request bids. James said the city would waive bidding requirements in accepting this plan and that it is legal for the city to do that.

That last part was called into question and the city rescinded the plan shortly thereafter. But Burns & Mac remained the sole provider and they were strident in going it alone.  The CEO of architectural firm BNIM was caught off-guard and wondered why they—and other Kansas City firms—were not included. This could not have been mere oversight; we’re told that Burns & Mac developed the plan over several months with 25 employees working on the project full time. Perhaps they thought at the time that their long-standing relationship with the Mayor was all they needed.

That changed quickly. The no-bid contract fell apart, as did the poorly considered right-of-first refusal option, along with the short window for considering proposals. Now that the deadline has been extended and other international companies are considering making proposals, Burns & Mac is teaming up with those KC firms they once thought unnecessary. Previously, Burns & Mac added general contractors JE Dunn and McCownGordon to their team. At the same time, the firm is publicizing data from a poll they themselves commissioned, raising concerns that I described in a previous post.

The question for Council members and voters ought to be: Does any of this yield a better, more cost-effective product for the people of Kansas City? The companies involved should not drive the decision-making. After all, if Burns & Mac didn’t think they needed BNIM et al. before, why do they think they need them now?

About the Author

Patrick Tuohey
Patrick Tuohey
Senior Fellow of Municipal Policy

Patrick Tuohey works with taxpayers, media, and policymakers to foster understanding of the conse