Many major 'GO bond' donors have previous KCMO contracts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - They have tens of millions of dollars in Kansas City government contracts. Now, those same companies are donating money to help convince Kansas City, Missouri voters to approve a property tax increase to fix Kansas City's crumbling infrastructure.

These problems include broken sidewalks, damaged roads, better handicapped accessibility and better flood control, city leaders want to borrow $800 million for what's called the GO bond, or general obligation bond. 

Previous story: Kansas City Council approves $800 million infrastructure bond

Supporters of that proposal on the April ballot have raised well over $500,000. 

"It begins to address an ongoing problem that's faced the city of Kansas City for many years," said Ed DeSoignie, Executive Director of the Heavy Constructors Association.

The Heavy Constructors represents about 100 construction related businesses in the metro area.

The organization recently donated $100,000 to promote the GO bond campaign in the April election.

While it's the largest contribution to date, DeSoignie acknowledges it pales in comparison to an opportunity for his members to bid on $800 million in business.

"If they are successful in bidding, that is correct," he said.

State documents the 41 Action News Investigators obtained list the other companies and organizations contributing $5,000 or above to the campaign.

For example, they included $10,000 each from J.E.Dunn Construction, Mark One Electric and Briarcliff Development.

And $50,000 each from a carpenters union PAC called CHIPP, the Western Missouri and Kansas Laborers and the Burns & McDonnell engineering firm, also known as Burns and Mac.

"These developers, construction companies, things like that, they have a very real financial interest in the outcome of this vote," said Patrick Tuohey of the Show-Me Institute.

KCMO city records show those same companies contributing to the campaign have been awarded tens of millions of dollars in past city contracts.

Those records also show:

  • Briarcliff Development has been awarded $438,000 in contracts.
  • Mark One Electric has had 33 KCMO contracts since 2006 with 10 of them for more than $1 million. 
  • Burns and Mac has been awarded 50 KCMO contracts with 17 of them for more than $1 million. 

"They have a bottom line benefit at stake from the increase in property tax," said Tuohey. "You and I will pay more in taxes and they will get more work from the city," he said.

However, while Burns and Mac is supporting the Go Bond Campaign, the company won't have to pay for any property tax increase if voters approve it.

This year the company began terms of a deal with the city to pay no property taxes for the next 15 years in exchange for Burns & McDonnell expanding its world headquarters in Kansas City.

Kansas City voters would have to pass each of three questions on the ballot by a majority of at least 57.1 percent for the Go bonds to be approved.

"I think the people know we've got to make an investment," said Steve Glorioso, the campaign director for "One, Two, Three Go Bond", the group promoting its passage. "We didn't think small to get to where we are now," he said.

"We're ready to get to work today," DeSoignie said.

Burns & McDonnell denied the 41 Action News Investigators request for an on-camera interview.

However, the company did release a statement.

"From advanced flood control to innovative roads and bridges, the GO bond effort will play a critical role in improving the everyday lives of Kansas Citians. Burns & McDonnell is excited to be part of the momentum that is focused on making our great city even better." 

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Andy Alcock can be reached at anderson.alcock@kshb.com.

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