LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

The Root of the South End Problem - Southfields


This is just the start of a story about Southfields, the 60-acre site that was sold by Metro Government for $2.7 million in 2006. Polo Fields, Inc. made the high bid, but the bidding process has been criticized by developers and council members, including Hal Heiner, whose district includes the site.

"The decision to sell the property was incorrect, and the sale was poorly handled," said Heiner, who voted against selling the property three years ago. Heiner, a real estate developer, said the property should have been valued higher due to its proximity to Long Run Park, the Polo Fields golf community and its relative flat land.

"The sale, in my opinion, was improperly handled," he said. "It should have brought $4 million, at least."

But it didn't, primarily because the bid process, conducted by Metro's Department of Purchasing, didn't allow developers the time to properly evaluate the property. "You don't try to sell a $1 million house in a week," Heiner said.

The property's original bid was announced with just a few weeks for developers to get their bid documents prepared, in December 2005. It was originally awarded to Ball Homes for $2.3 million. But after protests about the bidding process, including a lawsuit brought against the city by Chris Thieneman, the city re-bid the project in the spring of 2006.This time, Polo Fields was the high bidder, at $2.7 million.

The way Thieneman sees it, he was responsible for getting the bid for the property raised by about $400,000. Thieneman says that he bid on the project, too, and in fact helped gain interest in the bidding by placing an ad in the Courier-Journal at the time.

Once the re-bid process was announced, Thieneman dropped his lawsuit, but the city's counterclaim against him is still winding its way through the court system.Now, two years later, the $2.7 million from the sale has just about been eaten up by costs used to replace Southfields, according to Heiner and the Council Republican caucus. The government has spent nearly $1 million on its firearms training center on Taylor Blvd. It incurred a $270,000 expense to fix environmental issues called for on the Southfields land. It regularly sends police officers to Richmond, the location of the only other approved driver training center in the state. Then there are the legal expenses incurred from the botched efforts to sell the property.

"Training in public safety is what makes the difference in the performance of duties in police work, and the selling of the property made no sense," Heiner said. "We looked at surrounding cities, and they had 50-acre training sites and were expanding."

The "storage magazine" coming to the South End replaces a munitions shelter at Southfields. In addition to the public outcry, the facility will cost at least $100,000, much of which wouldn't have been spent had the city continued to own the Southfields property.

So why was the property sold in the first place? At the time, based on the city-county merger, the property was designated as surplus by Metro Government. The Metro Council voted along party lines, 14-10, to sell the facility to balance the budget in 2005.