Saturday, September 4, 2010

Painting bridges between luxury and charity.

This week it was announced that painting of the Clark Memorial Bridge spanning the Ohio River between Louisville Kentucky and Clarksville Indiana has begun. The contract was posted in March 2010 and the work has already begun. This is a wonderful thing. The color has been chosen and paint purchased. Evidently they have all their brushes and scaffolding ready. Soon we will have a lovely buttercup yellow bridge. The excitement here is palpable.
Why buttercup yellow? In a phone interview with Leni Schwendinger, a Brooklyn-based design and lighting consultant, she said the inspiration for choosing the color was “about celebrating the color of bourbon,” as reflected in the nearby Whiskey Row restaurant and housing development along Main Street, as well as “the liquid gold of a sunset and sunrise.” She went on to say the trend is to make infrastructure more friendly and welcoming! I was surprised it took someone from Brooklyn to make this connection.

All this painting and spiffing up of the general area downtown on the river is in advance of the new KFC YUM Center opening in October.

It was also announced this week, after the arena has been built and the final touches are being made, that there should be no problem with parking at all. As long as all the people who work in all the office towers near the arena "clear the hell out" after work. No lolly gagging now. No stopping at the entertainment district bars and clubs for an after work drink! Get the heck out of there and go home!

It's a miracle our building a fabulous $100 million plus sports arena on the banks of the Ohio River in Louisville, tucked right beside the Clark Memorial Bridge so close you can practically touch the building while riding to work, and getting it built and finished on time.. After all, the last bridge that got painted here took over a decade and cost 400% more than originally estimated.

The Kennedy Bridge, another span between Louisville Kentucky and Clarksville Indiana and within sight of the older Clark Memorial Bridge, was painted recently. The painting began in the last century and was finished in 2008. The original cost to paint it was $14 million and the final cost was $57 million. It seems there were a few unforeseen problems. Problems like a bridge inspector soliciting bribes from contractors, several sets of contractors who accepted the work and found out it was just too much for them, as well as arguments about the color. A local well placed and respected colorist said a nice dark green with brown accents. Considering how much the paint job cost, green would have been appropriate. There were arguments about that being too dark and too distinctive when the paint inevitably flaked.

The Kennedy Bridge got painted a nice beige. On stormy days it sort of melds into the color of he river.

Speaking of the brand spanking new KFC YUM Center, University of Louisville basketball will play the coming season there. There are new luxurious sky boxes, as there are in the Papa John's Cardinal Football Stadium. All the big corporations and medical practices are renting them. I'm sure just like the Speed Ball every winter and the sixth floor seats for The Derby, luxury sports boxes are in demand, expensive and the place for the well heeled to meet people just like them.

It was surprising to learn that Dismas Charities, Inc., a non-profit halfway rehabilitation house corporation was one of those renting suites; one at the football stadium and one at the basketball arena. The cost was something over $137,000 to rent the boxes for a year.

Ray Weis, the CEO who by the way is paid an annual salary of over $600,000 to manage the corporation which operates 27 halfway houses under contract to the Federal and State Governments in 12 states. The Executive Vice President, Jan Kempf received over $450,000 in annual salary. These salary amounts are for the year 2008.

As you can imagine the Letters to the Editor are running strongly against Dismas Charities. Mr. Weis announced the monies for the suite rent came from investment income. The investment money came from the sale of real estate in Atlanta. I've not seen a report of where the money for the real estate came from but knowing the Courier Journal investigative reporters, we'll soon learn.

A further dicey bit of information was dug up by a member of the Metro Council. It seems last August four members of the council chipped in funds from their discretionary budgets and granted Dismas $2800 to purchase a lawn mower. This mower is used by former prison inmates to mow the grass growing in abandoned cemeteries in the county. Dismas is being paid to do this work by local government.
Dismas House Headquarters, Louisville, KY
Back in 1964 when the nonprofit 501(c/r) was established I'm sure the intent was admirable and the good work of helping prisoners gain a place in society again is good work. Somewhere, probably about the time executives of Dismas began being paid like top corporate executives the began believing it was a good use of funds to rent luxury sports boxes.


  1. I think Dismas should be dismissed.

  2. 57 million to paint a bridge!

    we're getting a new retractable roof on our stadium and it's costing over 500 million! the sad part is no one seems to be pissed off about it.

  3. Coffeypot: For once I agree with you. SMILE

    Billy Pilgrim: Yes. I think the cost was so high because there were bribes paid and all kinds of predictible boon doggyness.

  4. When did it get so hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys? Or maybe the better question to ask is when did the bad guys get so smart to masquerade as good guys? I suppose what I mean to say is that it would be a lot easier if the bad guys didn't gloss themselves over by doing some good things. If you are going to be bad, commit to that. If you are going to be good, commit to that. I know... we live a world of grey, and not black and white. Most people have a little bit of both in them. It is the people that are really bad, but know how to manipulate the system to appear good, that really yank my chain. I suppose that maybe even that Dismas guy may have started out good, but something happened along the way. Nietsche said, "When you look long into the abyss, the abyss looks into you." Maybe he spent too much time looking into the abyss.

    On a higher note, I hope that this bridge, your yellow bridge, meets all of its expectations. Comes in at the expected cost. Is constructed well. And stands out like a beacon of hope compared to those who came before it.

  5. Great post. Ultra pristine and new. No need for a respray just yet!

  6. Buttercup yellow? Seriously?

    And where have you been?

  7. You said Bourbon and I thought biscuit not whisky.
    They should have got that paint on a BOGOFF deal and saved everyone a fortune.

  8. Robin: As a young person all adults were presented to me as "good" people. This included members of my church, teachers at school, government like the mailman, sheriff and police, farm workers, and relatives. Somehow, and I can't explain it, I was able to identify the good people from the bad people. I recall a man who was head of the watershed department and they wanted to dam up a part of the creek that ran through our farm. When that lake backed up the small creek would become a deep river and for the rights to do this Mom had to sign off on a lease. She knew it was not enough money to make up for the extreme inconvenience. This man, a deacon in our church, came to our home with the papers and tried to intimidate her into signing them. I was there with her. Her mom and my older sister were absent. I was the younger girl. He said, "Mrs. ___ you really have no choice. The county needs this lake and we have right of eminent domain." I said, "How can you try to bully my mom? You're a Christian and deacon. This isn't what Jesus would do. Don't you remember that Bible lesson about how you treat widows?" He told Mom, "How can you let your daughter speak like that to me?" She said, "She's right." He stormed out of the house.

    Mom went to a larger town outside the county and hired a lawyer and fought the thing and got 100 times more than her original offer as well as a bridge spanning the creek so we could move cattle and farm equipment from one side to the other. That man never did like me. He was not good even though he had all the right titles for goodness.

    Christopher: Thank you.

    Secret Agent Woman; I like yellow. I just think we could have thought up that color right here in river city without asking someone from Brooklyn.

    Kerrie: What is BOGOFF?

  9. A bridge, next to my hometown, The Forth Bridge, in Scotland, has spawned a saying locally. By the time it is completed painting, it is time to begin painting it again, from the other end. When we say, "It's like painting the Fourth Bridge" we mean it is an endless task! I love the colour, and the reason for choosing it, of your soon to be painted bridge.

  10. hello, charlene :) i hadn't blogged for weeks now, but when i checked back in today i noticed that you were 'following' me...thanks so much! i didn't have to read much to decide that i was going to be a new fan of yours, but i did read down through 6 or 7 posts...enjoying myself tremendously! i can't tell you how much fun it was to read about so many familiar things that are going on in my neck of the woods!! i live right outside fort knox but the evening news out of louisville makes the town seem right next door :)

  11. Shrinky: That's what people around here were saying about the Kennedy when it took over a decade to paint it!

    sheri: Ft Knox is close enough that when something is news there it's reported here. Thanks for the nice words. Be sure to hit the follow button!

  12. You're going to have a bourbon yellow bridge? So when the river freezes over, you'll have bourbon on ice?

    When can I visit...? :-)

  13. Crooked politicians, crooked charities - it just never ends. But that's what happens when a society is obsessed with the acquisition of money. A rich shyster is more admired than a wise, non-affluent person. Money is the yardstick by which everyone is judged. The fear of not having any overrides common decency.

  14. Do you mean to tell me there are crooked politicians in Kentucky? Well I've never heard of such thing!!!!
    I bet they trained here in Alabama :)

  15. I do believe that Rhode Island and Illinois are tied for corrupt politicians. Having lived in both places, I sometimes have trouble telling the two apart, politically.

    Buttercup yellow seems like an interesting color for a bridge. They had a poll out here for what color to paint the Braga bridge in Fall River, Mass.

  16. cool blog! i like that widget that shows who's been here.

  17. Charlene, you are a superhero! and a great reporter of the truth! Rock on, and come visit down in Alabama sometime.

  18. Oh I love it. More bridges should be cheerful colors.

  19. hello there, this is Leni Schwendinger, the designer who picked the color for the bridge - which by the way is "cream" as per Federal specifications. I like the idea, though, of buttercup yellow, and bourbon over ice, and the idea of cheerful colors. Check out the lighting installed now, the next layer of color; crimson and gold. Oh, and by the way the Light Projects studio and my home-place are in Manhattan, not Brooklyn.

  20. loni: Obviously if what you say is true the Courier-Journal made an error in saying you were from Brooklyn when you are from Manhattan?

    As to any other errors I apologize!


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