Community Development Corporation of Kansas City (CDC-KC) is a non-profit organization that for the past three decades has been dedicated to making inner-city neighborhoods in the Midwest metropolis more livable. Their motto: “From Ghetto to Goldmine.” Such an organization with such a reputation should have known better. About ten years ago, CDC-KC was retained by the municipal government for the development of a 35-acre shopping center in one of Kansas City’s deteriorating inner city neighborhoods on Prospect Avenue between 63rd and 59th Streets, north of the Research Medical Center.
With an $85 million budget, the project has been plagued by delays and financial problems. A major part of the problem, it turns out, was asbestos contamination removal, which is difficult and expensive. According to the settlement agreement, CDC-KC did not give city authorities at least 10 days notice that an asbestos abatement project was being undertaken. In addition, the organization failed to have aging structures inspected for asbestos prior to demolition or to follow proper removal and disposal procedures. The firm also allegedly left piles of asbestos waste lying about in areas used as playgrounds by children. CEO Bill Threatt claimed in an interview last year that he had no knowledge of any regulations related to asbestos, and expressed surprise at learning that such regulations existed. Regardless of what Threatt knew or didn’t know, ignorance is no excuse.
Their CEO’s education will cost CDC-KC nearly 20 times the amount an average college student will pay for a four-year degree at a public university. There is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, however: CDC-KC will spend $100,000 of the $450,000 settlement on environmental projects that will include grants for the proper and safe removal of asbestos from five homes and the publication of on-line and print resources aimed at helping inner-city residents identify and deal with asbestos hazards. In addition to the settlement with the municipal government of Kansas City, CDC-KC faces a pending investigation by the Federal Government. While the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees asbestos issues, refused to issue a statement on the matter, a KC city manager said that the possibility of such an investigation was “still open.”