Saturday, November 5, 2016

Corporate donations pay for pro-bond campaign

Donors include engineers, builders, relatives of city staff
By Roger McCredie

Cui bono?”  “Who benefits?”  According to Wikipedia, the Latin phrase is “an adage that is used either to suggest a hidden motive or to indicate that the party responsible for something may not be who it appears at first to be.”

In this case a look at documents filed by the nonprofit that was formed to promote the $74 million bond package Ashevillians will vote on Tuesday shows exactly who is likely to benefit by its passage – or at least who’s counting on it enough to put money behind the proposal.

The third quarter contributions report of the AVL GO Bonds Committee, which was formed in August to receive and spend moneys to promote the bonds, lists substantial donations from several engineering and construction firms, as well as a $750 contribution from Equinox Environmental, the landscape architectural firm headed by David Tuch, husband of Shannon Tuch, Principal Planner in the city’s Department of Planning and Urban Design.

In all, according to the report, AVL GO Bonds raised $36,805 in cash and in-kind services between August 15 and October 24.

Only one individual contribution is listed:  a $100 gift from accountant David Worley.  The rest are from businesses.

Major donors included:
  • Altamont Environmental ($5,000), an environmental engineering firm that has received several city contracts related to the development of the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project (RADTIP).
  • Vaughn and Melton ($5,000), a consulting engineering firm with offices in both Carolinas, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky.
  • McGill and Associates ($2,000), consulting engineers long used by the city, especially on water system projects.
  • Tennoca Construction Co, ($2,000), veteran of many city jobs; currently performing the  $6.9 million Craven Street Improvement Project, part of the city’s deal with New Belgium Brewery.
  • Mattern & Craig ($1,000), another engineering firm with long ties to city government, principal engineer of the RADTIP.
The largest in-kind contribution is for website design by Mountain True, valued at $2,350. A co-director of Mountain True is Asheville City Council member Julie Mayfield.

For a complete listing of AVL GO Bond contributions and details, see the accompanying table and election filing below.

To date, according to the report, the pro-bond committee spent just under $13,000 for flyers, postage, stickers, t-shirts, signs and balloons, as well as just over $10,000 on billboards, approximately $8,000 on radio commercials, and $5,000 on newspaper advertising during the period indicated.  No figures later than October 24 are yet available.

The bond package includes a $32 million bond for transportation, $17 million for parks and recreation, and $17 million for parks and recreation. (The transportation bond includes an allocation for development of the Swannanoa greenway and greenway connectors. 

Greenway projects used to fall under parks and recreation but were moved by city planners to the transportation category.)

A principal objection to the bonds as presented has been that there is no guarantee the proceeds will be used for the specific projects associated with them. The only stipulation is that bond moneys from any of the three categories must be applied only to projects that can be shown to relate to that category.

Projects in all three bond categories, however, would involve engineering, architectural and landscaping services.

Click here to download this table as PDF
October 31, 2016AVL Go Bond Committee Disclosure Report
Click here to download Disclosure Report
TOTAL RAISED: $36,805.00
David Worley, Accountant
“Mr. Worley has worked on a task force establishing procedures for the City of Asheville Affordable Housing Trust Fund”  
Alta Planning & Design
Anything having to do with bike paths and greenways, Alta Planning does it.
In 2014, they were hired by Asheville City to study changing the RADTIP (River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project along the French Broad River) bike lanes to protected bike lanes.  In a later memo it was stated it could cost an additional $4 million to make this change.
The City approved the change to protected bike lanes in July 2015.
Altamont Environmental
Has received several contracts with the City.
Contracted with Asheville to do work on the RADTIP
Designed the final left of the greenway connecting UNC-Asheville to downtown.
Contract fees not public.
ECS Carolina LLP
Provide engineering consulting services
Has performed stormwater work for Asheville
Is listed by McGill Associates (see below) for Asheville’s “On Call Professional Services for General Projects”
Equinox Environmental
Shannon Tuch works in the Planning & Zoning department for the City of Asheville. Her husband, David, owns Equinox Environmental, and also has several contracts with the City including the RADTIP project.
Kimley-Horn & Associates
If it has to do with parking, it’s Kimley-Horn and they’ve had several contracts with the City of Asheville. From their website, “ The City of Asheville, North Carolina is a legacy user of the Kimley-Horn parking demand model.”
Mattern & Craig
Mattern & Craig has been providing engineering services to the City of Asheville for years.  They are the principal engineering firm for the RADTIP project. In addition, Ken Putnam, Asheville current Transportation Director used to work for Mattern & Craig.  Gabriel Quesinberry, currently in charge of construction at New Belgium, used to work for Mattern & Craig and was responsible for the traffic study.
McGill Associates
McGill has provided engineering services on a multitude of projects to the City of Asheville water system since 1984 and continues as their contractor on a myriad of projects.
City of Asheville made this firm what it is today.
Total fees paid by the City to McGill is in the millions.
Allegra Asheville
Was paid $12,996.16 for stickers, cards, shirts, signs, balloons for this bond campaign.
Was paid $4,989.77 for postage; $4,047.23 for flyers and postcards
Sitework Studios
Sitework is an engineering and architectural company in the RAD. Owner, Matt Sprouse, former member of Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission design committee, the Commission in charge of the RADTIP project and also working on RADLofts project for Harry Pilos in the RAD.
Sitework Studios has contracted with the City on several projects, including several related to RADTIP, including the Clingman Forest and Town Branch Greenways. This contract was originally $370,000 and this August was changed to $540,000.
Tennoca Construction Co.
For many years Tennoca has been awarded several construction projects by the City. The most recent is the Craven Street Improvement Project. This project was part of the City’s agreement with New Belgium and also part of the RADTIP.  
This contract is for $6,901,570.66. (yes, almost $7 million)
The original estimated amount of this project was $2 million.  
Vaughn and Melton
Vaughn and Melton is essentially McGill Associates competition and submitted their proposal to the City at the same time McGill Associates did for the same services. Looks like they want in on the action!
Land of the Sky Association of Realtors
The form denotes $15,000 but does not indicate whether this was in-kind or cash.
Andy Oxy
Value $105
Helium use for balloons
Value $750
Graphic design of logo and mailer
Jeff Heck, CEO of MAHEC, wrote pro-bond editorial in Citizen-Times
Value $2,350
Website construction, social media and communications
Asheville City Council member, Julie Mayfield is co-director of this nonprofit.
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