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School board changes LPE project firm

By Kimberly Hopson
L’Observateur

RESERVE – The St. John the Baptist Parish School Board made a sudden change in plans for the construction of Lake Pontchartrain Elementary’s temporary campus during a special meeting on Monday morning.
Some board members felt that CSRS should no longer be in charge of the situation and that the work should be transferred to Hammerman and Gainer Inc., the firm that was most recently awarded the disaster management contract for the repair of East St. John High School and the rebuilding of Lake Pontchartrain Elementary.
Another point of contention was whether or not to take action when the School Board’s attorney, Orenthal Jasmin, was not present to offer advice on the legality of the decision.
Board member Russ Wise said he would rather hear it from the horse’s mouth before he voted to make such a move.
“Once again, if we step an inch off that straight and narrow road, we’re gonna wind up in court. We may anyway, but at least we ought to go to court saying that everything we did was on the basis of competent legal advice,” said Wise.
Board member Keith Jones later revealed that the board had known ahead of time that Jasmin would not be present, since he is usually required to attend court on Mondays.
“We cannot allow anyone to hold the district hostage because we have to get these kids back on campus by August,” said board member Rodney Nicholas.
Board member Albert Burl agreed with this point, saying CSRS was never officially contracted to complete the work to begin with. Since they were never contracted, Burl said it should not be a legal issue to take action on the matter.
“I dont know if these people were ordained by God, but I’m almost sure anyone could design a plan, set some trailers up and connect wiring,” he said.
The board members even brought Executive Director of Business and Finance Felix Boughton into the equation, asking his advice. Boughton said he only knows that the board agreed to take money from the bond issue to build the temporary campus but could not advise beyond that.
Eventually, Burl made a substitute motion, seconded by board member Gerald Keller, to declare an emergency and award the permanent contract for the temporary campus to Hammerman and Gainer Inc. The motion passed with six yeas, one nay, one abstention and three absences.