KCI debate shows issue is complex

Any action to replace KCI airport will be a long process that involves a vote of the public, Councilman Dick Davis said Wednesday at a public forum.

Davis, who voted for a plan to replace three-terminal KCI with a new one-terminal airport, was on the forum panel with Councilman Scott Wagner, who voted against the plan.

Consultant Don Hensley, Councilman Dick Davis and Councilman Scott Wagner were among panel members at a Citizens Association forum on the future of the airport last night. Moderator Nock Haines of KCPT led the discussion of the pros and cons of moving to a single terminal.

Also on the panel at the Kansas City Public Library were aviation consultant Don Hensley and John Murphy, a citizen leading an effort to preserve KCI.

Hundreds attended the event sponsored by the Citizens Association and an edited version will be aired later on Kansas City Public Television.

“Why now?” moderator Nick Haines asked the panel about KCI changes.

“Our position is not now,” Davis answered. “The mayor has said we’re going to slow this process down and look at the issue again.”

A citizen group the mayor appointed is studying the matter and is expected to make a recommendation by year’s end.

The public frustration that a new one-terminal airport is a done deal is wrong, Davis said.

“If a recommendation to build that airport happens, there will also be a public vote,” he said.

The current plan would cost an estimated $1.2 billion with the money paid from taxes on tickets, parking fees, concession sales and federal funds.

Murphy said, “I don’t want to pay higher ticket prices, I don’t want to pay higher parking fees and I don’t want to buy a $20 hot dog.”

Councilman John Sharp, who also voted against the new airport plan, told the panel, “this is the most customer friendly airport in the nation.”

He would like to modernize the 40-year-old airport and keep it that way, he said.

Davis said KCI has the highest security costs in the nation and so many structural problems in two terminals that “the tough reality is we’re probably going to have to replace those two terminals if we’re going to go with B and C for 30 years.”

Murphy said to applause that the matter was like owning a century old home – you fix it as needed, not spend a billion to replace it.

Wagner said much of the debate is premature, with a plan that could easily change and without input from airline companies, who have helped fund new airports in other cities.

Hensley said upgrades are needed but he had problems with the current plan, including reducing the gates to 37 from 90 possible now.

Murphy said his group is not going away: “This is a big issue and we want to have a say in it.”

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