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.