AECOM, Burns & McDonnell Question KC Committee’s Pick for $1B Airport Project
While a selection committee of the Kansas City, Mo., council has recommended Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate as developer of a $1-billion, single-terminal Kansas City airport, recent disclosures about the selection process have raised questions, even after the full City Council voted 10-2 late yesterday to advance a deal with Edgemoor.
Ballot language is set for the Nov. 7 election, and a design from Edgemoor and its team members, including SOM and Clark Construction, will go to the voters.
Kansas City-based engineering firm Burns & McDonnell—whose KCI Hometown Team was disqualified early in the process due to a financial structure that the firm argues is, in fact, compliant with the city's bonding law—is openly questioning the selection process, specifically regarding a comparison document that the selection committee recently released to the public. The document compared several aspects of the proposals from AECOM's KCI Partnership, the KCI Hometown Team and Edgemoor, but it did not comparatively score them in any way, a requirement of the city's procurement law.
"Our initial fact-check has uncovered countless errors on the comparison document," says Ron Coker, a Burns & McDonnell vice president. "In addition to the problem of not identifying our qualifications correctly, we see no evidence that any scoring took place in accordance with city procurement rules."
Regarding the document, Burns & McDonnell cited several problems, among them:
• Experience on projects of $400 million or larger totals $40 billion, not $12 billion, as listed in the document by the city's outside consultants.
• The KCI Hometown Team worked with all major airlines and all airlines serving Kansas City, not only two, as listed by the city's outside consultants.
• The KCI Hometown Team, which includes JE Dunn, Americo and others, has completed 4,050 aviation projects at 350 airports, not merely 35 airport projects, as listed by the city's outside consultants.
• The KCI Hometown Team has worked on nearly 1,800 aviation architectural design projects, not just two projects, as listed by the city's outside consultants.
• The KCI Hometown Team made a commitment to use its own capital to start construction on Nov. 8, 2017, not June 2018, as listed by the city's outside consultants.
In addition to those discrepancies, Burns & McDonnell alleges that a memo to the City Council recommending the Edgemoor team for the project misrepresented Dartmouth University's Tuck School of Business under a section titled "Initiatives to benefit small, women and minority-owned businesses."
Dr. Frederick W. McKinney, director of the Tuck Minority Business Program, sent an email to the city clarifying that his university's program was not contacted by the Edgemoor team and did not make a commitment to work with Edgemoor team member Clark Construction, as described in the recommendation memorandum.
Additionally, it was reported that Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed, one of the six members on the selection committee, admitted that the team of advisers first ranked AECOM's KCI Partnership at the top, followed by Burns & McDonnell's KCI Hometown Team, with Edgemoor third; a proposal from Jones Lang LaSalle ranked fourth. That initial ranking occurred on Aug. 14, the day that all four teams made presentations to the selection committee.
After that, other than the comparison document, no further ranking was done, according to reports. In the documents released by the selection committee, there is no written explanation of how Edgemoor jumped the KCI Partnership and KCI Hometown Team.
For its part, AECOM has maintained that its team, which includes Turner and AECOM-Hunt, still would develop the project if called upon and even would agree to partner with Burns & McDonnell to get a new airport-terminal project approved.
"The document (scorecard) speaks for itself and we are not surprised that in reviewing the RFPQ and hearing the presentations that the expert and professional staff concluded we were the number-one ranked team," a statement from AECOM's KCI Partnership read. "For the good of the city and the project—and to put the last several months behind us—KCI Partnership considered adding the 'Hometown Team,' led by Burns & McDonnell, to potentially bolster public support for the project that we all want to see happen. As evidenced by the numeric scorecard ranking of KCI Partnership as the number-one team across the board, our gesture to Burns & McDonnell was about building community spirit and unifying the city."
Reed told fellow council members that Edgemoor rose to the top after weeks of deliberations, follow-up questions with the proposers and further consultation with advisers, including financial advice from Ameritas, legal advice from law firm Husch Blackwell and input from airline representatives. According to reports, while Edgemoor stated that its team had not yet created any project drawings, both the AECOM and Burns & McDonnell teams submitted those drawings.
If the city cannot reach a deal with Edgemoor, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, it is unclear where the project would go from there. It could attempt to broker a deal with AECOM, Burns & McDonnell or a combination of the two, as the language on the November ballot mentions only a single terminal reconstruction and not a specific developer. The city also could choose to restart the entire selection process.
Updated 2:27 PM Central after the City Council's vote.