Inside City Hall: The Grand Prix may be over, but the bills keep coming

Tomorrow the Board of Estimates is scheduled to pay for street repairs for last year's Grand Prix

Baltimore Grand Prix – Day 3

The inaugural Grand Prix shows Indy cars speeding down Pratt Street to the Calvert Street turn.

Photo by: Getty Images, 2011

UPDATE 2/5/14 – The Board of Estimates today approved the settlement payment to Monumental Paving, with City Council President Jack Young saying that “Mr. Mahoney [president of the company] did the work and he should be paid.”

In fact, Mahoney did not do the work. The Department of Transportation acknowledged that he subcontracted the job of fixing the Pratt Street turn used for the Grand Prix to an unnamed company.

Arnold M. Jolivet, managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association, told the board the settlement amounted to “preferential treatment for a white contractor, a very well-connected one.” Comptroller Joan Pratt abstained from voting, while Young and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake voted “yes.”

Tomorrow morning, grouped with scores of other spending items subject to a pro-forma voice vote by the Board of Estimates, the mayor hopes to dispense with another pesky item involving the failed Grand Prix.

It’s an agreement with Monumental Paving & Excavating Inc. requiring the city to pay $161,699.54 for street repairs done prior to what turned out to be the last Grand Prix last September 1.

Here’s the back story, pieced together from city records:

Sometime early last summer, the concrete roadbed at Pratt and Calvert streets, where race cars would negotiate a sharp turn, was found to have deteriorated to the extent that IndyCar inspectors might cancel the race “out of fears for the safety of the participants as well as the public at large.”

The city Department of Transportation had no time (or particular interest) in putting out the repair work for competitive bid, so it was forced to use a little creativity.

It called on Monumental – a company steeped in the ways of city contracting and owned by generous political contributor George P. Mahoney Jr. – to make the needed repairs under an excavating contract it was performing at the Uplands housing development five miles away in Edmondson Village.

High Priority for the Mayor

Monumental hustled in men and equipment and did the repairs on Pratt and Calvert, avoiding any possible sanction by race officials and assuring that the roadbed would neither crack nor lift up under the punishment of speeding, braking, swerving race cars.

This was not the first time Monumental has been used for high-priority political work. Shortly before the 2011 election, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wanted to stage a photo op of herself and several City Council members before the “Super Citizen Convenience Center” on Sisson Street.

The facility required a retaining wall to be completed, and, lo and behold, Monumental was tasked (this time by the Department of Public Works) to build it under an Uplands contract. No one was the wiser until four months later, when the mayor and Board of Estimates approved a $582,738 Extra Work Order (EWO) to Monumental for the wall.

The Grand Prix proved to be an expensive event from its start in 2011, when the mayor pushed through $7.75 million in street repairs to make the course safe for 150-mph-and-over race speeds.

The first race organizer went bankrupt, leaving the city with more than $1.5 million in debts. The second promotion team, led by Columbia financier James P. Grant, exited the race last September after failing to secure any official sponsor. The 2013 race cost the city $487,000 in police, fire and other staffing costs, according to a published report.

If quick approval of Grand Prix street work takes place tomorrow, it won’t be because the two elected officials who sit on the board with Rawlings-Blake – City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Comptroller Joan Pratt – weren’t aware of the situation.
ADDENDUM: Last November, the Board of Estimates approved a $706,000 transfer of funds to cover a deficit in the Uplands account awarded to Monumental Paving & Excavating. The transfer – involving state Motor Vehicle Revenues allotted to the city – was passed unanimously and without debate. (Source: 11/20/13 BOE Agenda, p. 20)

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  • AuthorShereeseM

    And yet, none of this surprises me. City leaders are not only corrupt, they’re the worst financial managers we’ve ever had.

    • davethesuave


  • asteroid_B612

    Hah! I suspect we will be building the Harbor East welfare bridge and improving the Harford Road intersection for the Mega-Royal Farms store under the Uplands contract as well.

    On the bright side, we should feel blessed that Monumental doesn’t do web page design, operate municipal phone systems, install hifalutin water meters, or manage inept traffic camera operations.

  • davethesuave

    i think you mean “steeped in the ways”. But I can see why you wouldn’t want to use that word again.

    • baltimorebrew

      Yup, steeped as in “filled or surrounded by.” -mr

  • davethesuave

    i’m gonna look for the silver lining here. this stuff keeps up, and there’s absolutely NO reason to believe it will not, and SRB can kiss her higher political ambitions good-bye. of course, she’ll have to retrench and become a lobbyist, which will put her on the payroll of her pal, so it’ll work out for her anyway.
    Someone on your FB page yesterday said “she’s addicted to spending”, and I believe that hits the nail square on the head.

    • Andrew

      The whole Baltimore City Hall has a consumerist mentality. They never seem to understand the nature of any given challenge. They just shop for something or somebody,usually a “consultant”, and buy it. The Grand Prix, like the ridiculous Red Line, or their massively expensive phone system, are just shiny blingy things they buy instead of doing some hard work.

  • Lizzie 58

    It does no good to get worked up anymore. It will pass tomorrow at the Board of Estimates, and Madam Mayor and the Department of a Transportation will once again have fleeced the citizens of Baltimore. No one will do anything or get worked up, except maybe Carl Stokes or Mary Pat Clarke, two outlier Council members who try to fight for city residents but have little success in convincing a majority of the Council to stand with them.

    Everybody goes along to get along. Everybody is okay with the Mayor’s policies and actions as long as they get invited to the parties. It Is only the citizens who pay the taxes and fees; and who put up with the crime and reduced city services.

    Last week, two citizens in their fifties were murdered in their home or at the back of their home in Highlandtown and Irvington. The citizens do not feel safe in their own homes. Many of us are talking about installing security systems and buying guns for home protection. The Mayor has not said a word to us about these crimes. The Police Commissioner tells us crime is down. Then how come we do not feel safe? In my neighborhood where armed street robberies have spiked recently, it was suggested that we not walk alone! How are we supposed to go to work and live our lives like that?

    I only hope that we can hang on until 2016 until we can throw SRB out.

    • davethesuave

      I hear your pain, and I feel your frustration, but sadly, in a one-horse town, there is no relief, and for the criminals, there is no justice, and that is common knowledge. They go to sleep laughing every night. We’re the fools. And the band plays on.

    • River Mud

      Well, the mayor, our delegates, and our governor saw to it that the types of guns you get, and how many qualifications, licenses, and fees/taxes you must work through to buy a gun were extraordinarily heightened last year. They said that people like you and me wouldn’t mind the extra hassle, because it was guaranteed to make us all safer. The promise was that regulating legal gun purchases would somehow make the black market for guns disappear. Instead, all it did was make it hard for legal citizens to protect themselves, while the career criminals go hog wild on illegally imported guns sitting in a pile of thousands of similar guns somewhere in a storage unit in Dundalk.

  • krisnorthrup

    we gotta get mad as hell folks……problem is, we have to get others mad as hell and they just don’t read the news, get informed…..they just vote and return people to office blindly. I hope srb’s higher aspirations get her out of here post haste….can’t be soon enough for me. She’s been an abysmal failure and I was willing to give her a chance. photo op indeed, that’s whats high on her agenda

  • trueheart4life

    Just highlights who we pay interest on another bad decision … the list goes on!!!

  • Lee Raskin

    And there’s more: When Conway St. was originally repaved for BGP ‘s first year…$millions of Federal highway funds were used by SRB….but for only the west bound portion between Light and Howard St…which was part of the GP race course. The east bound portion of Conway which has heavy daily commuter traffic …was left untouched and in need of repair. There would be no more Federal highway funds available to maintain the GP of B race course in 2012 or 2013. IndyCar and Andretti officials knew that repairs would be needed to SAFELY run races in the following years. SRB and JP Grant had to have known that info as well. The GP of B would became ‘three and out’ and a hugh financial fiasco for the City of B. In hind sight, SRB and JP Grant were actually duped by IndyCar and Andretti (who made lots of money) to believe that $ millions could be reaped from this ‘World Class’ event. Wrong…$millions have been actually lost by the good citizens of B’more. I think we all should be upset and shouting: SRB…World cla$$…my Ass!

    • Tom Gregory

      It is my understanding Councilman William Cole brought the Grand Prix concept to City Hall and sold $RB on the idea of it being a world class event. I believe Cole was the mastermind behind the misuse of Federal funds

  • BmoreFree

    Other than the Wire Baltimore is mostly known as an old port city – I would like to see the city focus a little more of its resources are promoting that image (Sail-a-bration and the like) that wouldn’t involve barricades on city streets and couldn’t be picked up and moved elsewhere. People love Baltimore because it is unique, and that uniqueness should be celebrated.

  • Lizzie 58

    The work was done by an unnamed contractor? That is nonsense. The City’s Green Book (the Bible for City contracts) mandates that all subcontractors be identified up front prior to work starting. The Department of Transportation allowed an unnamed subcontractor to mess around with Pratt and Calvert Streets at the Inner Harbor? No way. They are lying to the citizens. Nothing that comes from this agency is even close to the truth. No wonder the speed camera program was an absolute debacle. They are all nincompoops. Too bad an inspector general does not get involved with real subpoena power. Maybe we would get some answers.

    • baltimorebrew

      To clarify–the subcontractor most likely has a name, but that name wasn’t given to the BOE or to the public today by DOT Director Johnson during his brief presentation about the $161K. We will try to wrench this info out of DOT. -mr

      • Lizzie 58

        Thanks for the clarification. I will wait to see what information Director Johnson gives you. Because DOT had to stay within the terms and conditions of the Monumental Paving’s existing contract at Uplands (and had no legal way to contract with the yet unnamed subcontractor directly), how much of the $161,699.54 was paid to the subcontractor(s), and how much in profit and overhead was paid to Monumental Paving? Second, is a gap in funding for the work at Uplands now anticipated? And if yes, how will it be filled?

        There is no way that Director Johnson cannot have the answers to these questions.

        To transfer scarce DOT funding from a West Baltimore neighborhood to Downtown solely to pay for road improvements for the BGP and to do so five months after the race is not transparent or good government. Even if the Uplands project is overfunded, there are many other unmet needs in the City. It is further evidence that the Mayor has stopped caring what the citizens think, and that she spent a small fortune on the failed race.

  • ushanellore

    The Drag Race–legal and illegal

    On one side of town they arrested the drag racers
    who never came alone but with their flunkies
    and their drinking buddies at night
    in groups of three and four in cars painted
    orange and yellow they high stepped in style
    on a deserted road to do the forbidden thing
    rend the cold air surrounding–
    their engines– like hungry cats
    on the plains of Africa– accelerators
    all the way down at 200 mph racing
    for the prize– no more than a huge applause
    and the fawning admiration of the sassy ladies
    in the crowd–enough to intoxicate the ego–
    the equivalent of the laurel wreaths
    on the brows of the athletes of ancient Greece–

    In modern Maryland drag racing is illegal
    could get you put away in jail
    if you are so bold as to defy the rules
    and go recklessly careening
    for attention and entertainment
    down deserted roads your buddies
    watching and cheering–
    in the hands of the wind you may be
    an Olympic discus throw–a winner,
    but to the law a sinner you will be
    deserving of a lesson in braking your speed.

    Not so on the other side of town,
    where politicians gathered
    and plotted their foreheads furrowed
    over the topic of the restive population
    needing tranquilizer darts to quiet
    their discontented souls fed on a surfeit
    of violent entertainment from tablets
    and smart phones yet never fully satisfied–
    gluttons for more of the same circus–
    the politicians let it be known
    they will convert the entire town
    to a coliseum–they will pave the streets smooth
    in every corner and in every bend
    vanquish the pot holes, bolster the asphalt
    and with a wave of their wands
    allow the vim and verve of an auto race
    to come calling on the crowds,
    when rubber meets the roads
    the sparks from the friction would fly
    like the 4th of July– the politicians–
    sold their lies about the event–
    with carefully crafted bulletins
    built the anticipation of the citizens
    for a once in a life time experience
    and clammy with excitement the people came
    the innards of the cash strapped town
    disgorged them–the flunkies
    and their drinking buddies
    in groups of three and four,
    their children on their shoulders,
    their dogs and cats on all fours–
    the chief of police on alert,
    for stray subjects with kitchen knives
    and swords– meant for the innocents–
    the politicians swore they would prevent
    catastrophes– not a life would be lost
    in the Grand Prix you would see–
    they said– the unity and the amity
    of a people with a purpose–

    Though reckless as the wind
    the spending and the speed–
    the fleeting thrill was glorious,
    it whistled through the town
    its shrill crescendo reverberating
    until months later
    when the balance sheets were pulled
    the citizens they were filled
    with the apprehension of folks
    who’d been taken for a ride–
    the bills due staggering
    rent the cold air surrounding–
    the equivalent of a jewel heist
    but not quite
    the crime was swept under a rug–
    and no one was arrested for that drag race…

    Usha Nellore

  • Sean Tully

    Mayor Rawlings-Blake is a failed mayor. I know the Sun and others just love that she is addressing the fiscal issues but they, like Rawlings-Blake, don’t understand that the fiscal solutions come after the social problems are addressed. I am a life-long “Ted Kennedy” Democrat, but I am beginning to think that a large U. S. City probably needs a middle of the road Republican to run it. The Dems just can’t control themselves when they have this much power – and they can’t address the real problems either.

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