Fairgrounds racetrack razing cost unknown as council vote looms

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:05pm

As the Metro Council ponders whether to tear down the city’s fairgrounds racetrack, members may have to make their decision without definitively knowing how much its demolition would cost.

Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said this week there is no cost estimate on the demolition of the property’s racetrack, a course of action that is outlined in a bill nine council members are co-sponsoring. The bill, set for a crucial second of three votes on Jan. 18, would also retain the property’s expo center and annual state fair for at least one more year.

Riebeling has signed off on the availability of funds for the ordinance. 

“I’m guessing that it’s in the half-million-dollar range,” Riebeling said, referring to the track’s demolition. “That’s a pure guess.”

Though the demolition-cost still hasn’t been determined, Riebeling said funding would come out of $2 million already devoted to a 40-acre park on the property, part of Mayor Karl Dean’s capital spending plan the council approved in September. 

Metro sent out a request for proposals in December seeking an architectural firm to begin the design and construction process of the park, which is slated for the property’s floodplain. Proposals are due Friday, Jan. 14., with their evaluation to take place Jan. 28.

“The whole process would start with hiring a consultant to do a master plan for the park,” Riebeling said. “And as part of that, the consultant would work on the various features of the park including getting the land ready. And if the council resolution passes, one of those things would be the removal of the racetrack.”

But some council members are questioning the wisdom of voting on an ordinance that still lacks a clear cost association.

“No council member should vote on a bill exposing the taxpayer without knowing a reasonable cost estimate for doing so,” Councilman Jamie Hollin said. “We don’t do that. We’re not in the guessing game.”

Steve Cline, owner of Nashville-based Demo Plus Inc., said he’s neutral in the ongoing fairgrounds debate. He stressed that he hasn’t thoroughly evaluated the cost to raze the racetrack, but tentatively placed its demolition cost between $300,000 and $500,000.

“It all depends what the architects want to do [with the property],” Cline said.

Council Budget and Finance chair Megan Barry, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the bill is more about “making the decision to not have racing in the neighborhood” and less about fairgrounds infrastructure itself. She said the Metro Department of Finance would provide cost figures when they are needed.

But Councilwoman Emily Evans, who has been critical of Dean and his administration’s handling of the fairgrounds issue, said a demolition cost estimate would be “important information” for the council to review. 

“Given the way the administration has presented the dire financial condition of the fair board, a fact which I disagree with, I think that it would be important for us to have information about the demolition, particularly the cost,” Evans said.

“Of course, the only way to get that information is to do an RFP and have a proper competitive process to determine those costs,” she added.

Evans, who like all council members voted for the mayor’s capital spending plan, also took exception with using funds from the park’s $2 million price tag to raze the track.

“We’ve approved money for a park,” Evans said. “There is no mention in the capital spending plan of demolition of racetracks. It was my understanding at the time the capital budget passed that the park was compatible with existing uses on the site.”

20 Comments on this post:

By: vendor78 on 1/12/11 at 12:33

From January 4:
Janel Lacy, the mayor’s spokesperson, said the RFP has nothing to do with demolishing the raceway. “Perhaps this group does not understand the normal process for capital improvement projects, but their claim that we are moving ahead with the demolition of the racetrack is inaccurate,” she added.

From January 12:
“I’m guessing that it’s in the half-million-dollar range,” Riebeling said, referring to the track’s demolition. “That’s a pure guess.” Though the demolition-cost still hasn’t been determined, Riebeling said funding would come out of $2 million already devoted to a 40-acre park on the property, part of Mayor Karl Dean’s capital spending plan the council approved in September.

Perhaps the Mayor's office does not understand the normal process for misleading the public - don't undermine your press secretary by contradicting her so obviously a week later.

Point, SMF.

Unfortunately, Mr. Hollin and the rest of his Council cronies are late to the party, it seems they have already voted for demolishing the racetrack, they are just waiting on the bids to come back to know the price. (What does it take to undo a previous vote?)

I wonder how many thousand dollar picnic tables the neighbors will get once a demo firm finds a way to spend $1.99 million on tearing the track down. I'll give you a hint, it's 10.

Almost makes the case for saving the track and getting a nicer park, doesn't it?

The irony is so...Rich.

By: vendor78 on 1/12/11 at 12:58

From Channel 5:

"The size of the park is subject to change, but you've got to start the process, the council authorized the money for the park in September," Riebeling said.

Maybe the park won't be 40 acres after all. I had not considered the lengths the Mayor's office would go to bait and switch the neighbors, but given Rich's comments/contradictions, I would not put it past them to shrink the park and say "the demolition cost more than expected, it had significant environmental issues, we're doing this for the Creek, you like creeks, right? blah blah blah"

Maybe it will only be 28% of the size the Mayor's office promised.

By: vendor78 on 1/12/11 at 1:16

While I'm at it, Councilwoman Barry is trying to drag a red herring across the trail. This is indeed about the infrastructure on the Fairgrounds property. Remember, the Mayor is going to raise property taxes if he can't sell off this property, so it's about economic development, not quality of life for 10 upset neighbors whose leader RENTS a home a few blocks from a racetrack that's been there for 107 years.

I wonder how Barry is going to sell that at the Country Club - even elites and her Dem friends would agree the common man needs a place to go for family entertainment.

By: joenmsusa on 1/12/11 at 6:06

Finally Council-person Barry comes clean (Where did she grow up?).

"Council Budget and Finance chair Megan Barry, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the bill is more about “making the decision to not have racing in the neighborhood” and less about fairgrounds infrastructure itself."

I think Vendor78 hit it on the head...Karl (Marx, is it?) has to sell this property to make his Karl (Marx, is it?) Ego Center work or he's going to have to raise property taxes. That will not look good in his insatiable march to higher office. To whom the property sells will be most interesting, as Davidson Countians hopefully will follow the money. Of course, by that time, ti's too late.

As for the $2 million for demo and master planning...it's just a drop in a bucket compared to the Pandora's Box that gets opened the parking areas that has stored scores of school buses for decades gets the first spade of dirt turned. That's "Metro's" area, outside of the race track lines.

If you guys only knew.....

By: HokeyPokey on 1/12/11 at 7:11

Ain't no biggie. Just let some of them boys in with they pickup trucks and they can have it tore down in no time.

Then they can use the scrap to fix up they racecars.

HP

By: girliegirl on 1/12/11 at 8:25

@HP LOL truly

By: girliegirl on 1/12/11 at 8:26

Can't the demolition be used as "fill" for another local site here? And don't most developers PAY for fill? (just sayin')

By: jwd88 on 1/12/11 at 9:07

OK here we go again... Another smoke and mirrors plan exposed. 2 million would most likely build a very small park any way. And they say they will take from the park budget and still have enough to build a park? The park budget was just for a park.. The administration is out of their mind. It will cost a lot more than 500k to demo a track. That may only cover the actual demolition.. What about hauling it all to a dump site.. Thats not cheap, averaging $75 a load just to haul it, 50 to 500 a load to dump it, depending on if its considered hazardous or not.. Demolition of the track and park area will likely cost upwards of 3 million by the time you consider all that will be involved, Has anybody thought about the grandstands and and its offices? I believe the money would be better spent on a park, Keep the track intact and make the people who want to have races there KEEP IT QUIET!!! A racing facility can co-exist in this community if it is FORCED to meet the strictist guidelines. Wake up Nashville. If the racetrack goes, then the state fair and expo center will be next on the chopping block. When all of thats gone,.... well lets just say HELLO to emenient domain and GOOD BYE to your neighborhoods.

By: yucchhii on 1/12/11 at 9:49

I still don't understand...WHY do you all continue to think that Mayor DINK and his cohorts (The council) are only decieving y'all on just a couple things here and there? When are you all going to get it through your THICK SKULLS that mayor DINK and his cohorts are decieving you on EVERYTHING!!! Dink and his cohorts are out for THEMSELVES and NO ONE else! How many times do they need to demonstrate that? I'll bet DINK can pee on your back and tell you it's raining! What a joke y'all are!!! If y'all don't wake up NOW, Nashville will be in ruins before you know it!!! Look at Nashville now, When is he going to stop being ANTI-HOMELESS and start spending money to take care of this problem and do something about the way the management of the Nashville Rescue mission runs the place so the homeless people will have a "DIGNIFIED" place to go? The money needs to go where it "NEEDS" to go instead of the politcians POCKETS!!!

By: bfra on 1/12/11 at 10:17

As the saying goes, Karl & Riebeling are trying to sell "a pig in a poke". HP & girlie are all for this. Wish I had one, they might lap it up for a cool 1 mil.

By: RJP on 1/12/11 at 11:02

rjp NO PLAN. NO COST FIGURES. NOT EVEN A COCKTAIL NAPKIN DRAWING OF THE PARK.

By: GUARDIAN on 1/12/11 at 11:02

GUARDIAN- I've been in and around racing for almost 50 years. Won my first race at Harriman on my 13th birthday. Worked in NASCAR and all the way down the line to the local dirt tracks. Worked and competed in drag racing and won more than one national championship. I've managed both type tracks and owned a few. Nashville is a natural draw for fans. Because of it's history, the fact that this is Music City and the number of race fans that live withing a 100 miles it can't help being successful "BUT" for one thing. "BAD MANAGEMENT" Everyone that has managed the track in the last 25 years have been toooo greedy and wanted to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Find a manager that loves racing, Nashville, the track and it's history. If he is not greedy and a total dumba$$ who is tooo lazy to work then the track will make money and be what it should be. Nashville Raceway should be a big plus for the whole city and should bring in lots of money to all the businesses in town. All that manager needs is the help of the fans and the racers and the raceway will help everyone be proud of it again. Let me add that the track should be more that just for racing. At least once a month weather permitting. Everyone should be able to go out to the track and watch and listen to the new musical talent in town. There are soooo many things the track should be to Nashville if they will just find the right person to run it.

By: helloo people w... on 1/12/11 at 11:18

Couldn't agree with you more Guardian!! I have been around the fairgrounds racetrack since the early 60's when my uncle raced, he retired from racing many years ago but I still love to go, I really hate to see that area turned into a park. We already have plenty of parks in Davidson County but too many people stay away from them due to the pedophiles who frequent them. So will this too be another park for the pedophiles?

By: spooky24 on 1/12/11 at 11:28

I'm still rather neutral on this issue.However, I agree with two things mentioned. First the racetrack demolition and removal oil infested asphalt to a suitable site for deposit is going to cost much more than $500,000. Somewhere in the area of 2-3 million at the least. How can a city planner say " $500,000 that is just a guess"-it's not a 'guess' it is what he was told to say.
Bad management mainly due to cronyism and nest feathering have been the biggest problem with the racetrack for years. It could be turned around and be an asset for the city.

sp

By: RJP on 1/12/11 at 12:11

rjp A GUESS ! Followed by a opps, then we have a mess! Mayor and council, why the big push to ripe out what could be income with wider use and with better over site, and better management. Have not heard of, or seen any plans on the city's part of what the property will look like when complete. Am sure by august we could see some nice drawings and plans. Then we the voters and tax payers can vote on it. AND VOTE FOR A mayor and council that DONT GUESS an have a solid plan.

By: fair_minded on 1/12/11 at 1:34

Let's look at some other aspects of this issue-- the legality of it.

The Metro Charter, as well as some state legislation, *specifically* assigns the "complete" authority and "control" of the Fairgrounds to the Fair Board of Commissioners. The Fairgrounds and the Fair Board are *not* an agency of metro, but a separate, independent commission.

And if you want some quick proof of this, call metro personnel and ask them about the employees of the Fairgrounds. They are *NOT* covered by government civil service and do not come under the metro employees benefits plan. The Fairgrounds has it's own benefits plans for it's employees (check out the financial statement!). And in fact, a former Fairgrounds employee sued metro over civil service benefits and lost the case when metro argued in court that the employees belong to the Fair Board, not to metro government!

The Mayor claims that the Fair Board voted to give him the property. While there are problems about exactly what they *did* vote on, the fact still remains that the Fair Board of Commissioners does not have the authority to over-ride the Charter and assign the responsibility to another agency, in this case, the parks department. Only a referendum by the voters can over-ride and change the charter.

Why do we even have a Metro Charter or state legislation if our government will not follow it?? You and I are bound to follow the law or face some terrible consequences.

Further, the Metro Council did not specifically approve the plan for the park. What they approved was the total budget amount for the mayor's capital expenditures fund. He can still spend it on most anything-- he's not bound to spend it on what he presented to the Metro Council. He is only bound to stay within the approved budget.

So while the park was included in his plan, he does not have to build it, nor did the Council specifically approve it.

In any event, neither the Fair Board, nor the mayor, nor the metro council have the authority to over-ride both the Metro Charter and the legislature of the State of Tennessee and transfer the control of that property, or any part of it, to *anyone.* According to the law, it must remain under the control of the Fair Board until such time as the charter and the legislation are changed to make that possible. And a charter change requires a referendum.

Are we a country of laws or an anarchy??

By: bfra on 1/12/11 at 1:39

Maybe I am too realistic, but how can the council even consider voting on something without knowing the cost? And ditto, on the parks! There is a park within a short distance of anywhere in Nashville, most not properly maintained.

By: MocMewn on 1/12/11 at 5:20

In response to fair_minded:

You spoke to wrong person in metro personnel or else they deliberately lied to you. First let me assure you each fairgrounds employee, had to fill out a metro employment application, a copy of which is sent to metro personnel, go through a metro screening and hiring process, and receives his/her paycheck from metro finance. They have the same job descriptions as other metro employees, receive the same metro health care and retirement benefits, observe the same metro holidays, and accumulate the same amount of leave time as every other metro employee. They also must be vested at least 5 years to receive their metro-funded retirement.
If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck………well, you get the picture.

Not ALL metro employees are civil service. Best example, is the mayor. He's not civil service, but who do you think signs his paycheck? Who funds his health care and retirement benefits? There are many metro AND state employees who are not civil service (in blue-collar positions), but they receive the same benefits as civil service employees from their government agency. The difference......it's really hard to fire civil service employees. If their job is going to be eliminated, the government agency must offer them another like position. Those not under the civil service umbrella can just be let go (they work at the discretion of their supervisor). All the same rules for salary and benefits apply to civil service and non-civil service workers alike.

The Fair Board of Commissioners may not technically be a metro agency, but the mayor appoints each commissioner and metro council must approve his appointment. That should tell you a great deal about who is really running the show.

I do not live in the neighborhood. I do not have a vested interest or opinion on whether the fairground operations/racetrack stay or go. I DO care that they not disappear. I think that ALL of the events that occur on the fairgrounds have a place and a market in Nashville. But, it has to be just the right facility. Fix it all up or move it all to a better location. JUST DON’T LIE TO ME ABOUT YOUR REAL INTENTIONS!!!!!! ARE YOU LISTENING MR. MAYOR????

By: shinestx on 1/13/11 at 7:53

Why isn't this whole proposal being put up for a public referendum?

By: RJP on 1/13/11 at 12:43

rjp Keep moving funds around , its like playing hide and seek with tax payers money. The mayor and city council have no plan, NO real figures on the cost. NOT one sign of leader ship! Just take a look at the green living roof on the convention center, all ready scaling that back! And a work force of inmates and community service workers. Al most like slave labor. The mayor is one vote. Council members do your job, vote the way people in your district want . LETS VOTE ON IT! Just saw a news station have a phone in vote on how many wanted to keep a football coach. Lets open the books and see where the money has gone.