Apartment owners threaten another lawsuit against KC

A Kansas City Council committee today endorsed a measure that appears to thumb its nose at a 32-year-old court order.

Despite the virtual certainty of a lawsuit, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to eliminate payments to apartment owners, which in the past have been made to compensate them for the fact that the city doesn't pick up trash at those units.

Councilwoman Jan Marcason said the city simply can't afford those payments anymore (totaling about $1.4 million per year) and a lot has changed with the city's trash collection programs since a judge's 1976 ruling. That decision said Kansas City had to provide apartment dwellers with free trash pickup, or provide apartment owners with a cash equivalent, because it was picking up the trash for other city residents who paid the earnings tax.

"The amount we're spending on trash recovery and waste in this community is mind boggling," Marcason said.

Other arguments by the city are that landfill space is shrinking, the court order did not contemplate the curbside recycling program, and that apartment owners do not provide equivalent services to tenants.

But representatives of the Heartland Apartment Association and their lawyer, Jim Bowers, said that if the council didn't like the court order, the city should have renegotiated it or filed a motion to modify it, not just eliminated the payments with no legal basis.

Bowers said that if the full council approves this measure next week, it likely will face a lawsuit and a contempt proceeding.

Property owner Henry Lyons pointed out that the council hasn't had the greatest track record when challenged in court, such as when it tried to impose new fire inspection fees on apartment owners. Those fees ultimately were overturned in court.

Councilman Russ Johnson said the elimination of the apartment rebate program is a deliberate decision and the council has been fully briefed on the legal ramifications, although he would not comment on its legal reasoning.