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Campaign Watchdog: Gray’s claims about South Limestone project ‘false’

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By Andy Mead – amead@herald-leader.com

The statement: “South Limestone. When the city needed to repave this road, the mayor turned to one of his political contributors, and we ended up paying $16 million. That’s $5 million more than the original estimate to the high bidder. That’s $7,000 a foot.”

Lexington Vice Mayor Jim Gray, in a television ad criticizing Mayor Jim Newberry

The ruling: False

The facts: This ad shows Gray walking along the new South Limestone Street past bright yellow signs that count $7,000 each foot. At one point, the words “No bid contracts” appear on the screen.

The fundamental premise of the ad — the city spent $7,000 a foot to “repave this road” — is false. What happened on South Lime went far beyond paving. Sanitary and storm sewers were replaced. Electric, telephone and cable lines were buried. The street and sidewalks were completely removed and rebuilt, with rain gardens.

Also, Newberry didn’t turn to contributors, as the ad alleges, to do the job. It was competitively bid.

There were two bidders. A bid from Woodall Construction was slightly lower, but was rejected because the company could not meet the construction schedule, project manager George Milligan said. The job went to ATS Construction, which bid $13.1 million.

The president of Woodall gave money to Newberry in 2002 and this year. Two officials of ATS have contributed to Newberry this year, after the contract was let.

The contract is expected to come in under bid, at $12.7 million, Milligan said. Utility work cost another $1.7 million, also under budget. Design was another $616,000.

The city’s portion of work still to be done for bus stops, benches, signs and other “transportation amenities” will cost $250,000, with another $750,000 coming from federal transportation money.

That comes to about $15.25 million, which is expected to be offset by $2.6 million in “green infrastructure” money from the federal stimulus package that is being funneled through the state, Milligan said.

What Gray calls “the original estimate” was from the city’s Streetscape Master Plan, which underestimated the cost of burying utilities. An engineer’s estimate for the project was never done, Public Works Director Mike Webb said, adding that the project is coming in under the bid amounts.

On “No bid contracts” appearing in the ad, Gray campaign manager Jamie Emmons said that referred to other contracts during the Newberry administration, not the South Limestone project. He said the words “high bidder” in the ad make that clear.

Emmons said the Gray campaign arrived at $7,000 a foot by dividing the $16 million it said the project cost by a 2,112-foot length it measured on Google Maps.

Webb said the project was 2,912 feet long. His figure, without adding the “transportation amenities” or subtracting the expected subsidy money, is a little over $15 million, or $5,000 a foot — for a lot more than paving.

Filed Under: Campaign WatchdogElectionsJim GrayLexington GovernmentMayor's race

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Comments

  1. Reality Check says:

    So BOTH bidders in the project contributed to Newberry’s campaign? Wow… What difference does it really make if it’s $5,000 per sq. ft. or $7,000? Bottom line: Pay to play is alive and well in Lexington.

  2. Downtowner says:

    Worth every penny planned.., and under budget! Awesome.

  3. LimestoneLifer says:

    Everyone involved in the Limestone project should be applauded. I’ve worked on Limestone my entire adult life and couldn’t be more impressed with how well it was handled.

    I know the ATS guys in question and they were impressed by the leadership and professionalism of the Newberry administration.

  4. listing_badly says:

    I like Gray, but this ad was a disgrace.

  5. Greg F Shoemake says:

    Why don’t you ask the merchants on south lime about how they were kept in the dark and told about the project at the last minute—ask them how many thousands of dollars they lost…..newberry lied to them that work xcouldnt be done on saturdays but they sure worked on saturdays when they moved downtown to work on sidewalks

    also anytime newberry was approached by south lime merchants he ran from them or threw one of his famous “hissy fits”
    HE IS SO OUT OF TOUCH WITH THE REAL WORLD! right? cheryl ann?

  6. lewis says:

    I’ll bet that is the tip of the iceberg. What about the same contractor, who’s not a road contractor, that did all the downtown streets? The same one who has not finished Maxwell St. or the Fifth Third pavillion. Illegal, no. Unethical, yes. What about the final bill for the Equestrian games? Still Limestone at $7000 a foot is more than it should have cost all things considered. Of course it’s “under budget”, who knows what the actual budget estimates where. Probably revised upward after Gray ran the ad.

  7. Speedy says:

    @lewis: Can you tell us how much it should have cost, in your professional opinion?

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