Council gets specific with bond management

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 1, 2002


LAPLACE – Recognizing the opportunity presented by the passage of the $18 million bond issue earlier this year, St. John the Baptist Parish Council members and administration officials are proceeding cautiously with the logistics. Perhaps a little too cautiously for the tastes of some council members, who at a recent meeting adopted a resolution with a specific directive to administration on how to proceed with negotiations on a construction management consultant.

Council member Steve Lee of Dist. 7 introduced a resolution that set a fee schedule of 1.5 percent for the management of $11 million-worth of construction under the bond, approximately $165,000.

The offer would initially be made to Bernard Charbonnet & Associates, whom the council originally approved for the work. If Charbonnet declined, then the same offer would be made to the local firm of Calderera & Company.

Should Calderera decline, the parish would manage the construction with parish engineers already under contract.

“I just want administration to put this to bed. We need to tell them what we want and what we’re willing to pay for it,” said Lee during council discussion. “If we fight over how it’s going to be administered, we’re all going to have a black eye.”

Lee’s resolution came as a result of Chief Administrative Officer Chris Guidry’s report that the administration was unable to agree upon the fee with Bernard Charbonnet & Associates, whom the council originally approved for the work. Guidry said the parish was not willing to exceed at fee of 1.5 percent for the management of $11 million-worth of construction under the bond, approximately $165,000, and Charbonnet declined the offer. The new resolution requires the parish to make the offer one last time. There had already been turmoil regarding the selection of Charbonnet. Allen J. St. Pierre of Dist. 2 introduced Joe Calderera during the March 12 meeting of the financial committee and expressed his disappointment his LaPlace-based firm was not given consideration for the construction management job. Both President Monica and several council members said they were not aware Calderera’s firm performed construction management at the time the resolution to negotiate was made.

“We voted too hastily on that resolution,” St. Pierre said. “Local contractors should be given priority.”

, otherwise we’re hypocrites.”

Dale Wolfe, of Dist. 3 said he had nothing against Calderera, but encouraged the council to consider Charbonnet as an opportunity to offer business to a minority-owned business.

“Some contracts we’ve given out never had a hang-up as we’ve had now,” said Wolfe, who had originally introduced Charbonnet for approval in February. “We’ve hired people from timbuktu when we’ve had local people, but it was never questioned until a minority was in place. We have not been fair to minorities to this point.”

Lee responded that his issues were strictly with business and what the job is, and wanted to be fair to the contractors involved.

“I made a mistake in using the word ‘negotiate.’ We shouldn’t have given administration direction to negotiate with anyone. We should have developed a scope,” said Lee. “If Charbonnet doesn’t want {the fee}, let’s find someone who will do it at the same price, not a nickel more.”

With the final alternative being no outside firm would be hired for construction management, Cleveland Farlough of Division A was concerned this sent a message to taxpayers that it’s an unnecessary expenditure to begin with. Lee pointed out it was clear the construction management fee would be coming out of the monies already set aside for engineers and architects costs, thus not costing the public extra money.

“We have three buffers already. I respected the fact that administration felt we needed a fourth,” said Lee in reference to the engineers and architects, the separation of powers between administration and council, and parish engineer, C.J. Savoie. “{Savoie} is not part of administration, we pay him to do just this.”

Guidry explained the purpose behind hiring an outside firm was for guidance to make projects more cost effective for the parish. Savoie would be overseeing the work orders and invoices from the projects

“At no time was there any intent to add another layer. Our goal was to integrate what we had here,” said Guidry.

Jobe’ Boucvalt of Dist. 5 cast the lone vote of opposition to Lee’s resolution. Boucvalt said that he didn’t feel he was given enough information originally about Charbonnet and wanted Calderera to have a fair opportunity to bid on the project. Boucvalt did not take Guidry’s words about Charbonnet’s lack of interest in the fee as absolute, and Lee’s resolution calls for it to be re-offered to Charbonnet prior to being offered to Calderera.

“If I vote for [Lee’s resolution}, it says I want to give it to Charbonnet before Calderera.”

Guidry said he will go through the motions of offering the fee to Charbonnet again. But felt sure they were not interested, nor was the parish interested in raising the fee for the type ofwork proposed.

“If we re-arranged the deck chairs so to speak, on the services entailed in the fee. We might change,” said Guidry. “But for the services we discussed [with Charbonnet], 1.5 percent was fair.”