Council backs Robottom veto

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 29, 2010



LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council on Tuesday upheld Parish President Natalie Robottom’s veto of a proposal to extend a series of grass cutting and janitorial services contracts for three years.

An initiative to override Robottom’s veto, proposed by Councilman Dale Wolfe, only received five of the six votes needed from the council. Wolfe and fellow council members Charles Julien, Haston Lewis, Ronnie Smith and Jaclyn Hotard supported the override.

Council members Danny Millet, Cheryl Millet and Darnel Usry cast votes to oppose the veto override, while Councilman Steve Lee, under the advice of his attorney, abstained from the vote.

Wolfe proposed the three-year extension at a May 11 council meeting moments after Robottom took the oath of office. He said he believed smaller firms were getting into a bidding war with larger firms in an effort to secure contracts they have held for years and said he was not happy with a request for proposals process that was addressed by the council in January.

“These companies have updated their equipment and some have gone into debt in order to do their work properly,” Wofe said. “It is an injustice to local contractors who have done a good job serving the parish.”

Robottom said her reasons behind the veto action concerned the process in which the contracts were approved at the last meeting. She said her administration was not given adequate time to review the contracts and determine funding availability. The contractors were not publicly named, and payment figures were not disclosed when the council voted to approve.

According to parish documents, the contractors were identified as B&D Tractor, Leroy Cox Lawn Care, Cypress Land Contractors, Perez Grass Cutting, St. John Grass Cutting, BB’s Janitorial and One Touch Janitorial. The contracts cost the parish a combined $409,000 per year.

Before the vote, Robottom agreed to allow the firms to work out of contract on a month-to-month basis until the end of the year. She later extended that time period a full year so that her administration can review the RFP process and set new criteria for what is submitted.

In other action Tuesday, Wolfe asked the council delay a decision to hire LaPlace attorney Kerry Brown to provide legal assistance to the council pending further discussion.

Wolfe said he suggested the hire in an effort to “provide additional legal assistance for a parish council dealing with an ever growing parish.” He said Brown could bring additional information to supplement existing legal team members.

Brown, an assistant district attorney, represented the Bill Hubbard administration over the last two years. Brown was let go by Robottom shortly after she took office this month. The proposed contract, which would have paid Brown $48,000 a year, was removed from the agenda.

The council also approved a $440,880 contract to replace the Greenwood Drive Bridge in LaPlace and an $880,000 contract to refurbish the second phase of parish water towers.

St. John spokesman Buddy Boe said the bridge contract, awarded to Gray Construction of Morgan City, calls for a complete replacement of the bridge and also includes resurfacing work on Greenwood Drive in front of LaPlace Elementary School. Boe said the work would not begin until summer, when school is out of session.

Boe said the water tank and tower refurbishment contract, awarded to Blastco Inc. of Texas, is the second of a three-phase initiative to repair and rehabilitate the parishes water storage system.