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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -
Mayor Sly James announced Tuesday morning the formation of an advisory group to determine the future of the Kansas City International Airport.
Airport officials and some council members want to merge the three current terminals into a state-of-the-art $1.2 billion new terminal on the site of the current Terminal A.
But this proposal, which would be funded by federal tax dollars and plane ticket fees, has encountered much resistance from area residents who love the convenience and ease of KCI.
"Is KCI as it is currently configured the best airport for residents and visitors of this city? Second, if it is not, what are the options for an airport that will serve this region for future generations?" James said at Tuesday's news conference. "We need to know the answer to the basic question: Is this the best scenario for Kansas City?"
James said the 24-member panel, which includes residents of both Kansas and Missouri, should report back by the end of the year with potential options. The civic leaders serving on the panel include former Kansas City Mayor Pro Tem Bill Skaggs and former KCK Mayor Joe Reardon. Skaggs was chairman of the city's aviation committee when he served on the council.
It's a group that consists of 24 area businessmen and women, including former KCK Mayor Joe Reardon.
The group will study the financial and environmental concerns along with the current airport configuration.
"Additionally, the panel will seek to answer questions regarding the impact changing air travel models will have on the three-terminal layout," James said Tuesday. "In the near future, KCI will need to accommodate modernization for passenger amenities, airline expansion, baggage and security requirements. Passenger convenience will also be a chief concern for the advisory group."
James pledged to take into consideration the safety and satisfaction of Kansas City residents as well as those of visitors.
"Public input and involvement are not only invaluable, they are absolutely essential to ensure KCI is a part of our economic grown now and well into the future," James said.
He said this is an important conversation, but it will take some time to resolve with sensible and responsible solutions from the various perspectives.
"We need to have a conversation about this important bit of infrastructure and economic development that assures that Kansas City remains best and remains a major American city," James said. "Whatever our final decision on the airport, it needs to be thoughtful, forward looking and well reasoned and finally it should be a conclusion that our community and our airline partners are comfortable and supportive of. Not everybody will agree. Not everybody agrees on anything. But we need to make sure that everyone understands what we are doing and why."
The idea of a new KCI has its supporters and detractors.
Cathy, who lives in the Los Angeles area, returns to her native Kansas City about once a month. She said a single terminal would make travel easier.
"Just figuring out which airline you're on, which terminal you're going to, if you have one central place you just go in and out," Valenti said.
But Robert Fine, who has physical challenges, says KCI is the most user-friendly airport in the country.
He said single terminal airports are much bigger and require longer walks. Fine said he has to use a wheelchair in Las Vegas while he can walk on his own at the smaller KCI terminals.
James said he made sure the panel includes those with opinions on both sides of the issue as well as those who don't have a formed viewpoint.
"You can't have a good conversation and reach good conclusions if everybody agrees with each other," the mayor said, adding he wants the panel to find the relevant facts "and use those facts to try and solve problems."
Kevin Koster is one of the panel members and he opposes a new airport.
"A lot of the things that make KCI unique is the quick access," Koster said. "It's very difficult to maintain that to the degree that KCI enjoys now."