St. John Council vote perplexes parish president

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 13, 2011



LAPLACE – The St. John the Baptist Parish Council voted down a series of new grass cutting contracts that would have both handled more property and saved the parish an estimated $97,300.

The council also failed to act on a separate proposal for a pair of new janitorial contracts that would have saved more than $10,000 compared to 2010 pricing numbers. There was no motion to bring the matter up for discussion and vote.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the move means residents will continue to foot an exorbitant bill for services that could have been handled at lower rates. She was extremely disappointed when speaking after the meeting.

“I’m outraged,” Robottom said. “We have been fair with these contracts, but now we will continue to pay more for less work.”

The vote on the grass cutting contract recommendations was 5-3, with council members Jaclyn Hotard, Lucien Gauff, Ronnie Smith, Haston Lewis and Charles Julien voting against the measure. Council members Cheryl Millet, Darnell Usry and Danny Millet were in favor of the new contracts. Councilman Steve Lee abstained from the vote.

Prior to the vote, multiple council members voiced their disapproval of the recommendations. Julien said he would rather see the parish go with local contractors for all of the grass cutting services, while Smith and Lewis said they thought some of the prices offered in the contract proposals seemed to be lowballed, particularly a new contract to cut the grass at the St. John Airport, which is currently handled by parish workers.

“There is no way possible that you are going to cut 230 acres at $800 a cut,” said Smith. “You can’t even supply the gas for a job like that. We will have to hire someone else to finish the contract at an outrageous price.”

Robottom pointed out that five of the six contractors recommended for the contracts are local firms out of St. John Parish. The sixth is a Baton Rouge company. She also said all of the contracts have a 30-day exit clause and added that companies that cannot do the job would be replaced.

“We received assurances that the numbers we received were true numbers,” Robottom said. “These were requests for professional services so we evaluated and questioned each of the firms before grading them on multiple categories.”

The proposed vendors for the six contracts were Cypress Land Contractors of LaPlace, Corporate Green of Baton Rouge, St. John Grass Cutting and Maintenance of Edgard, B&D Tractor Services of LaPlace, Hymel’s Turf and Landscape of Reserve and Pac’s General Contractors of Edgard.

Robottom said there was no competitive selection for the current contracts, which have been in place for several years. She said in some cases contractors were just given a number for how much they would be paid.

“We don’t have enough parish grass cutters to do the work that would have been done with these contracts,” Robottom said. “Tax payers want their money spent wisely, and this is not wise.”