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Small controversy surrounds contract for St. John Council videography

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

 LAPLACE – Video services will be up for grabs for the second time in several weeks in St. John the Baptist Parish, but there appears to be little suspense about who will eventually land the contract.

Councilwomen Cheryl Millet is adamant the contract should be awarded to Richard Marino, owner of LarMar Productions in LaPlace. Marino has been videoing the council meetings and other parish events since May 2000.

His contract expired but he has been operating on a month-to-month basis during 2013.

“I know we need to upgrade our equipment, and there are items that need to be done and can be done simply through (contract) negotiations,” Millet said during the council meeting Tuesday night. “At that time I would like to make sure this contract is awarded to Mr. Marino of LarMar Video.

“It’s time to award the contract to you (Marino) in as much as you are here during our council meetings. You have been a very loyal videographer to this council.”

Parish officials re  cently sent out a Request For Proposals for video services, but Marino failed to submit a bid, despite being encouraged to do so in an email sent to him by parish Communications Director Paige Falgoust on May 6, two days before the RFP was advertised. Bid deadline was May 28.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said only one bid was submitted but recommended the council reject it for lack of experience and qualifications spelled out in the RFP. She did not name the bidder, and when Councilman Larry Snyder pressed Robottom to expand what she meant by lack of qualifications, she said the proposal “did not come in at all relative to what we were requesting.”

L’Observatur has filed a public records request with the parish to obtain a copy of the proposal from the bidder as well as the original RFP.

The nearly one-hour discussion on video services was riddled with tension as council members accused the administration of disregarding their needs, Marino questioning terms in the RFP and Robottom often on the defensive. At one point, she told Marino the “intent was not to exclude you.”

“As a matter of fact we thought you had the edge being familiar historically with the equipment here, services here and had the opportunity to make re commendations based on some of the complaints we received, you received,” she said. “I’m going to be very clear there was no intent to get rid of you.

“However, we had complaints and concerns from some of the council members that could be addressed from proposals from people that do this for a living.”

Council member Lu  cien Gauff also expressed concerns about the video and audio issues and said he was disappointed in Marino failing to submit a bid.

“To me, without putting in a proposal at all, that didn’t sit well with me as far as where Mr. Marino and the council should be,” Gauff said. “That wasn’t fair to just say ‘give it to me.’”

Marino was not clear regarding why he did not submit a proposal but said earlier this year he had a conversation with Falgoust regarding possible upgrades. According to Marino, after the conversation Falgoust said she needed to find the money to pay for the recommendations.

“So what am I going to make a recommendation for?” he said. “If the parish don’t have the money, what am I recommending? That I’m going to buy it, donate it and install it?”

Robottom said that was a misunderstanding and but not an indication the council did not have to money to act on his recommendations.

The council rejected the bid, and Robottom said a new RFP would be drafted and advertised in the near future.

Marino is currently being paid $2,200 a month, his fee when his contract expired, to provide video services.

In other council news, a contract was awarded to Crowder Gulf of Theodore, Ala., for Emergency Re sponse, Management and Recovery Services. According to parish CFO Vince Lucia, this is a pre-positioned con tract that becomes effective when activated during a disaster.

The previous contract with DRC, which did not submit a bid, expired June 24.

“Finalizing this contract for hurricane season is critical to a successful response and recovery, especially considering some of the problems (with DRC) experienced following Hurricane Isaac,” Robottom said.

Council members also awarded a contract to Professional En gineering Consul tants Inc. of Baton Rouge to design and prepare plans and specifications for a sewer lift station, force main and gravity system for Airport Road. The engineering contract is $59,127, and the estimated cost of the project is $435,000, which is being funded through a grant with the Delta Regional Authority and a public-private partnership with Dredging Supply Company and the parish.