Kansas City Council approves $800 million infrastructure bond proposal

KC Council approves $800M bond proposal
Posted at 3:58 PM, Jan 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-19 23:41:54-05

After weeks of disagreement, Kansas City Council has unanimously passed a plan to address the city’s infrastructures problems, which will now be placed on the April ballot for voters to decide.

Council members voted Thursday afternoon to approve ballot language for a $800 million infrastructure bond.

The city would like to borrow $800 million over the next 20 years, spending the following:

  • $600 million on roads, bridges and sidewalks ($450 million on roads and bridges, $150 million on sidewalks)
  • $150 million on flood control
  • $50 million for public buildings (which include ADA improvements and a new animal shelter)

"Between now and the election, hopefully sooner rather than later, the idea is to keep building out the details so when people go out to vote in April they know what they are buying and hopefully they will like what they are buying,” said Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner.

The decision to pass the bond proposal happened on the very last day the council could approve language for the April ballot.

For weeks, council members disagreed on how to divide the $800 million. Some council members wanted to allocate more money for roads while others, including the mayor, wanted more money for sidewalk repairs.

“We have a lot of areas where the homes and the properties are not worth that much to put in two or three thousand dollar investment on the sidewalks in front and we will never be able to do anything with those properties until we address infrastructure issues,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James.

The bond proposal will be split into three questions on the April ballot: roads, bridges sidewalks; flood control; public building and animal shelter.

The City of Kansas City released the following information about the ballot in the statement below:

“Residents will see three ballot questions, and each one must receive a “Yes” vote of at least 57.1 percent of voters to be approved.

Question #1 calls for approving the issuance of $600 million in bonds to repair streets, bridges and sidewalks. This would include trails, as well as create a city-funded sidewalk repair program that would eliminate homeowner assessments. Some $150 million would be dedicated to sidewalks.

Question #2 calls for approving the issuance of $150 in bonds to improve flood control to prevent floodwaters from backing up into homes and businesses.

Question #3 calls for approving the issuance of $50 million in bonds to repair public buildings. This would include replacing the outdated animal shelter, in partnership with private fundraising, and renovating public buildings to satisfy federal ADA requirements.

A key feature of the plan calls for a complete change in the way the City repairs sidewalks. The bonds would create revenue to allow the City to pay for residential sidewalks repairs, rather than charging homeowners. The city would create a program to systematically evaluate, repair and replace sidewalks. The goal is to make it through two citywide cycles over 20 years.”

Council members told 41 Action News they feel confident voters will say yes to all three.

On Thursday night, Armour Hills Homes Association President Tiffany Moore spoke to 41 Action News about the need for sidewalk improvements.

On 69th Terrace near Oak Street, Moore showed sidewalk segments that were not aligned, protruding upwards, or badly damaged in the neighborhood.

Aside from improving safety for all who use the sidewalks, Moore said KCMO residents could save money with the infrastructure plan.

Under the current system, any sidewalk replacement or repair outside of a KCMO home is paid for by the homeowner.

"We don't pay for the section of the street in front of our house, but we do pay for the section of sidewalk in front of our house," explained Moore, who has lived in Armour Hills for around 15 years. "Whatever work is done on the sidewalk is then assessed to the property owner. In most cases, this is thousands of dollars."

If the infrastructure plan passes, the cost of sidewalk assessments would transfer from homeowners to the city.

For people who don't live in KCMO, Moore said sidewalk improvements would be made to popular attractions that bring in people from out of town.

"We're talking about sidewalks that reach those civic amenities, like museums," she said.

News of the proposed infrastructure plans also brought excitement to areas like Westport.

After experiencing a damaging flood last August, businesses said any improvements to flood control could make a big impact.

"If we never had to worry about flooding in Westport, that would be great," explained Tyler Herndon, who works at SetCell on Westport Road. "More people would be coming down here."

If the infrastructure plan passes with voters in April, KCMO residents would see property taxes increase between $6-$12 annually for two decades.

On Thursday, City Councilman Kevin McManus said the projects could help transform Kansas City.

"This is not for tomorrow, this is for 20 years down the line," he said. "I have young kids. This is for them. This is for the next generation of Kansas Citians." 

The vote on the $800 million KCMO infrastructure package will take place on April 4.

In order to pass, each project question will need at least 57.1 percent approval.



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