Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Busted

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 12:44 PM

I'm going to admit something here. I really didn't understand the Greyhound bus controversy until last week. I hadn't been following it all that closely and I assumed that the grand jury would do its thing and either indict former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton — or not — and then maybe all the juicy evidence and details of alleged wrongdoing would spill out.

And then I went to MATA's specially called December board meeting to approve the construction contract on the new airport-area bus terminal, and realized that the between the city, the state, and the federal government, the taxpayers are essentially buying Greyhound a brand new facility.

Now, to be fair, Greyhound is paying $2.5 million for construction of the facility.

But the federal government is paying $10.3 million, the state $2 million, and the city almost $1 million.

I also thought that MATA's new south terminal would essentially be a hub for bus transfers between different MATA buses.

From details presented to the MATA board earlier this month, MATA will use 1,650 square feet of the facility for a "small customer service function."

In comparison, Greyhound will be using 12,289 square feet of the facility.

Each tenant — the Memphis Police Department and an as-of-yet unleased space — will each pay for its own annual operating costs, as well as common area maintenance, based on its percentage of the building's square footage.

In terms of the lease, however, Greyhound will pay $10 per year over a term of 40 years. Or, if you want to get fancy with the math: $400.

I don't know what its operating costs will be — or what they are now — but that's not a bad deal. They get a home in a brand new facility for $2,500,400.

In a December 8th memo from MATA president Will Hudson to the MATA board, he said that MATA talked with Greyhound about partnering on the Central Station terminal in the early 1990s. Talks stalled, but were started again in 2000, with an eye toward a facility near the airport.

In 2004, then mayor Willie Herenton bought the option to buy Greyhound's downtown property for $10,000.

In early 2006, a Memorandum of Understanding between MATA and Greyhound was finalized for the airport-area terminal and sometime that same year, Herenton sold the option for $91,000.

Now I get what the controversy was about. At the very least, the whole thing has conflict of interest written all over it.

It's the end of the year, the grand jury has disbanded, the Supreme Court is reviewing the statute under which the investigation was waged, and it looks like Herenton is off the hook for now.

I just can't help but be reminded of another MATA terminal, this one at the FedExForum, and think that maybe both times we've been taken for a ride.

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