Metro Development and Housing Agency's communications contract with McNeely, Pigott & Fox has drawn the most speculation in recent weeks, but several other convention center-related contracts have also exceeded the original agreed-upon maximum price.
MDHA has amended four contracts related to predevelopment activities of the new convention center after the contractors’ invoices exceeded the original agreed-upon maximum price, according to documents obtained by The City Paper.
• The communications contract with MP&F was originally not supposed to exceed $75,000, but wound up with a cap of $900,000.
• The building management consulting contract was originally not supposed to exceed $254,000, but now has a cap of $303,000.
• The hotel consulting contract was originally not supposed to exceed $93,500, but now has a cap of $500,000.
• The financial consulting contract for the convention was originally not supposed to exceed $165,000, but now has a cap of $250,000.
In total, the four predevelopment activities contracts were capped at $587,500 when they were originally signed with MDHA. Those same contracts now have a collective maximum price of $1.95 million.
The contractor for both the hotel and the financial feasibility report is C.H. Johnson Consulting, which works on many major convention center projects. So far the firm has been paid upward of $500,000, of which $370,000 has gone toward consulting work for the proposed convention center hotel.
District 23 Councilwoman Emily Evans said she took issue with MDHA spending such a large amount on consulting work for a proposed hotel. The resolution passed by Council last year approving predevelopment activities for the proposed Music City Center called predevelopment “and related activities.”
“They [Mayor Karl Dean] administration has told us they always considered the convention center hotel a separate project,” Evans said. “So when they present a resolution for predevelopment and related activities, they did not specifically say it was for a hotel.
“There has not been any real public dialogue about a hotel, so a lot of us are really in the dark.”
Evans has been critical of MDHA’s contract management for allowing the contractors to invoice the city for so much more than the original agreements.
The fourth contract is with Conventional Wisdom for building management and operations consulting work.
Predevelopment costs have reached $16 million. The funds come from tourism taxes and fees created by Council to fund the proposed $635 million project.
MDHA Director Phil Ryan said the city simply low-balled its estimate of what communications would cost for the project. Public relations firm McNeely, Pigott & Fox has billed Metro for more than $450,000.
Metro Council planned to consider at a special meeting on Friday the creation of the Convention Center Authority, a nine-member board that would shift project oversight away from MDHA.
Council approved the creation of the Convention Center Authority on Tuesday, but Councilman Mike Jameson used an obscure rule to defer the legislation.
Jameson submitted a list of 12 questions, which Metro Finance Director Richard Riebeling promised would be answered by the end of the week.