Metro Approves Huge New Contract. And We Do Mean Huge

There had been a bit of a dust-up this week because the Metro board didn't release the details of the most expensive infrastructure contract in the city's history before the Board of Directors voted on it this afternoon.

Perhaps to reconcile, Chairman David Wolff broke standard procedure at today's meeting and allowed public comments, "because it was so important." Barry Klein, an out-spoken critic of the rail, spoke first, and after he did, board Wolff said: "We appreciate him coming, we know that he'll be monitoring how Metro performs under this, and we welcome that type of citizen input."

Councilwoman Jolanda Jones spoke a little later: "I heard someone say you welcome citizen input. I put in quite a few questions to you guys about a month ago and I've yet to receive the answers. That concerns me."

Public input or not, the board unanimously approved the $1.46 billion contract, and sure, some board members asked Metro CEO Frank Wilson some "tough" questions during his presentation, but before the vote, they were already praising Wilson and staff for putting together such an amazing contract.

And maybe it is, but there still seems to be some doubt about how Metro is going to pay for the cost of the project. Only $632 million will be financed in the beginning, and Metro has until August 31 to come up with that money.  

Furthermore, Wolff told Hair Balls that only 66 percent of the projected $1.46 billion is finalized because the engineering costs are still unknown, so the final cost could increase.

About $156 million of the $632 million is budgeted to come from the same type of financing that put Metro on the hook for $14 million about three months ago.

"I don't expect there to be another AIG," Wolff said. "In fact, I know there won't be another AIG."

The oddest moment of the meeting came when Wilson started his presentation to the board and a recording of jungle sounds/birds chirping played through the speakers.

"I hope that's not a bad omen," Wilson said. 

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