Bid numbers raise questions for St. John School Board

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2010

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – When CSRS, the consulting firm hired by the St. John the Baptist Parish school system to oversee facility improvement projects, brought bids before the School Board for approval, a few matters raised questions by some board members.

Before any bids were even introduced, board member Russell Jack questioned the use of out-of-parish workers on the projects.

While CSRS representative Floyd Luster said he has no control over who contractors hire, at the urging of board member Albert Burl III he said he will set up a job fair to inform community members about any work available.

With that matter over, Luster began the introduction of bids for various projects.

The first three bids, for renovations at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary, East St. John Elementary and John L. Ory Elementary, all came in significantly under budget.

As various board members expressed concern over what would happen to the extra money, Luster assured them it would go toward a contingency fund to be used for other projects.

His words would soon be vividly demonstrated.

The next bid introduced, for renovations at West St. John High School, came in at $512,000, nearly $100,000 over budget. Luster explained that bids ranged from that number all the way up to nearly $650,000.

When board members asked why the original numbers were so off from the actual bids received, Luster’s colleague, Todd Mann, explained, “The $416,000 was for a specific scope of work.”

He said the original budget included some technology upgrades that were already completed by the time the project went up for bid, so different elements were added to the project.

“It is still in the same spirit as the original work,” he said.

With the matter explained, board members eventually approved the bid from Tuna Construction of River Ridge.

They were assured money from the contingency fund will more than make up for the budget shortfall.

Once all bids were approved, School Board Vice President Patrick Sanders had his eyes on the future.

Sanders inquired about obtaining extended warranties for equipment and work done, envisioning a time when the district no longer has CSRS at its disposal.

Somewhat ominously, Sanders told the CSRS representatives, “If we’re going to lose employees, you’re going, too.”

Sanders also heatedly questioned Luster and Mann about the recent discovery of roof leaks at Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School. He asked why such a problem was not discovered during initial assessments.

Luster replied assessments were made two years ago.

“Things happen over time,” he said.

He said someone would be sent to address the recently discovered problem.

Ceiling tiles were recently replaced at GMMS as part of that school’s renovations.

CSRS will present its monthly progress report at the School Board’s next regular meeting on June 17.