School Board sets recovery committee

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 20, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

RESERVE – The committee chosen to supervise the Disaster Management Service Contract was the point of contention on Thursday morning in another special meeting of the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board.
During its Jan. 10 meeting, board member Russ Wise suggested the board create a committee to recommend a project management firm to receive the Disaster Management Service Contract. The board members would select one person to represent them on the committee. At this meeting, Wise motioned to approve the existing committee. The motion was seconded by board member Keith Jones.
Board member Albert Burl made a substitute motion to request that five board members also sit on the committee. Burl said that in reading the newspaper the past couple of days, he had seen it reported that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had reneged on three projects in other parishes, one being the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office. His motion was seconded by board member the Rev. Rodney Nicholas.
“Those parishes are now being required to pay monies back, so I don’t want to be responsible for having this school district pay back money five years from now after they come in to audit, so I want to be a part of that committee to make sure everything’s OK,” said Burl.
 Wise opposed the amendment, saying the board needs to keep the committee as is because it had already been formed and was made up of members chosen by the board members themselves and also to avoid “getting politics involved” in the decision.
“Mr. Wise, ultimately a decision is going to rest with the board anyway. You’re not going to be able to take the board out of making the decision. It seems to me that if we have some board members there to make sure the process is running fairly and equitably, I think it’s in our best interest,” replied Nicholas.
Jones pointed out that the agenda item itself was redundant, since the committee was never dissolved in the first place. The board members continued to debate whether or not a new committee should be chosen, given that the entire process of awarding the disaster management contract was begun anew during the board’s March 21 meeting, when legal advisor Orenthal Jasmin revealed that manner in which the board awarded the contract to both CSRS and HGI Environmental Services was not in compliance with FEMA rules and that the process should have been a request for qualifications, or RFQ, and not an request for proposals, or RFP.
The motion to include five board members on the committee failed when put to vote. The original motion, to use the same committee, passed with six yeas and four nays.
The St. John School Board will reconvene on May 2 at 6 p.m. in Reserve.