KC Council Nears Deadline To Get $800 Million Infrastructure Bond On The Ballot This April

Jan 12, 2017

Despite Mayor Sly James' hope that the Kansas City Council would agree on ballot language for a major infrastructure bond  issue, joint committees on Thursday decided to put the discussion on hold until next week. 

The leaves just one week to come to a consensus on language if they want to get the issue on the ballot April 4 — which they do. 

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner emphasized the urgency to agree on the bond language, saying further details about how to direct the money can come in a later resolution.

"I feel there is an emergency on the bond, less of an emergency on the resolution that would allow us to go through that in much more detail," Wagner said. 

Still, the committees decided to hold off on a decision until more council members are present. Both Jolie Justus and Jermaine Reed were absent. 

Most of Thursday's meeting was spent hearing from the public, leaving little time for council members to discuss the language of the bond.  

Councilman Quinton Lucas offered up an option to break the $800 million into these three categories: $550 million for streets bridges and adjacent sidewalk repair, $25 million for a new animal shelter and related animal control infrastructure and $225 million for flood control and neighborhood sidewalk replacement. 

All sidewalk replacements would be in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. 

A previous plan submitted by the city would allocate $600 million for roads, bridges and sidewalks, $150 million for flood control and $50 million for a new animal shelter and ADA building requirements. 

Mayor Sly James pushed back against Lucas' proposal, saying it lacks dedicated funds for neighborhood sidewalks and allocates too much money for both the animal shelter and flood control. The city only needs to contribute $150 million for flood control in order to leverage federal funds, he said. 

James said the city's option was balanced and worked in the interests of all neighborhoods. He said there was no reason to deviate from that plan.

"I will not change, and I will not support  anything that is unbalanced and does not provide benefit to this entire city," James said. 

For James, this issue is crucial. He recently appeared on KCUR's Up To Date to talk about the city's dire infrastructure needs

The joint committees will have a special meeting next week to further discuss the bond language. They must come to a consensus by the Jan. 19 deadline in order to place the issue on the April ballot. 

Lisa Rodriguez is the afternoon newscaster and a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig