Lightfoot's Chicago Spent $66M on Coronavirus Facility That Treated Just 38 Patients
Taxpayers foot bill for contract awarded to a politically connected company
Taxpayers in Democrat Lori Lightfoot's Chicago forked out $66 million for an emergency coronavirus hospital that only treated 38 patients.
Moreover, the contract to renovate was given to politically connected company rather than one that said it would donate such money to coronavirus relief organizations or waive fees.
But top aides to Mayor Lightfoot defended the decision to spend $1.7 million per patient, calling it an “insurance policy” for fear that hospitals would be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, which ultimately failed to materialize, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
Deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development, Samir Mayekar, said he was “incredibly proud of” of the taxpayer-funded $66 million facility, arguing the money was “not spent in vain.”
But taxpayers who are now paying the bill may not share Mayekar's view.
According to the Sun-Times, the $66 million contract was awarded to a politically connected company called Walsh Construction.
The project was initiated with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and the federal government.
City-state governmental body, McPier, which runs the convention center and owns a firm called Navy Pier, hired Walsh, though it had just received proposals from three other construction companies hours earlier.
The Sun-Times found.
McPier solicited proposals from three giants in construction: Walsh, Pepper Construction, and Power Construction Company. And it hired Walsh even though Power said it either would forgo any fees or donate them to pandemic relief because it didn’t want to profit from the pandemic. Walsh charged $65.9 million, including more than $5.1 million in fees, records show.
An official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — which hired McPier to build the facility, for which the federal government is covering at least 75 percent of the costs — said in internal emails that Power or Pepper was the best choice. But that decision was left to McPier, which picked Walsh, saying its rates were not “significantly different” than the others and that it “had the most experience . . . working with the [Army Corps] and working on emergency projects.”
And on the day before Walsh was selected, the chief executive officer of Navy Pier Inc, Marilyn Kelly Gardner, emailed Larita Clark (McPier’s chief executive officer ) to bolster Walsh as the choice.
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This is significant because Navy Pier has ties to former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Daley’s daughter is also on the board of Navy Pier.
Chicago officials settled on McCormick Place as the site of the emergency hospital before looking at three other facilities.
Those other three facilities were previously closed hospitals, which would have cost a total of $50 million to renovate all three, about $16 million less than it cost to renovate just McCormick Place.
The other three sites never treated a single patient.
As well as the city spending $100 million on creating emergency medical facilities, a CBS 2 Chicago investigation discovered Chicago lost more than $176 million in revenue from canceling conventions.
But this is not the first time Lightfoot has used taxpayer funds for questionable means.
In April, the Mayor signed an executive order that gave coronavirus benefits to all immigrants, refugees, and illegal aliens.