Taxpayers spent $175,000 for paint project with 90-day warranty

The News 4 I-Team found taxpayers spent more than $175,000 for a paint job at the Nashville Fairgrounds that was only...

Posted: Jun 24, 2018 5:45 PM
Updated: Jun 24, 2018 5:45 PM

The News 4 I-Team found taxpayers spent more than $175,000 for a paint job at the Nashville Fairgrounds that was only guaranteed for 90 days.

Two years ago, Metro Council voted to invest $12 million in a facelift at the Fairgrounds; among other things, a fresh coat of paint. But some of that paint is already peeling, after less than a year.

The News4 I-Team found some answers on why the paint was in such shape in internal emails between the contractors.

It turns out the painting contractor was instructed to use a "cost-efficient paint system," one that the contractor would only warranty for 90 days.

News4 received hundreds of pages of internal emails related to improvements at the Fairgrounds after filing an open records request.

Among those emails, directions for painters to give some buildings only a "touch up."

Contractors were told to pressure wash only the "wall with the worst peeling paint," on the Vaughn building, for example.

Only months into the painting project, the construction managers wrote to each other about new paint that was already peeling.

The I-Team shared what was discovered with Shane Smiley, an advocate for the Fairgrounds.

"A waste of taxpayer dollars, $178,000 for a 90-day paint job," Smiley said.

Why didn't the taxpayers get a better paint job?

News4 asked Laura Womack, the Fair Board's executive director on Thursday. She asked to email her the questions. She had not responded to the email by 5 p.m. Friday.

One interesting email sheds light on the paint project.

Larry Atema, CEO of Commonwealth Development, emailed Rich Riebeling on June 21, 2017.

Atema was the project manager for work at the Fairgrounds. Riebeling is his friend and was Metro's finance director at the time.

Atema wrote Riebeling that they are investing $175,000 in painting some buildings "so they look better" while the city figures out "Fairgrounds use options."

The option that would later become public involves tearing down most of the Fairgrounds buildings and replacing them with a soccer stadium.

That plan wouldn't become public for nearly a year later.

In June 2017, while that painting was going on, Council members were still expecting a $12 million makeover and fresh paint at the Fairgrounds.

"It was a dog and pony show to make it look like they were doing something at the Fairgrounds," Smiley said.

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