St. John School Board hears recovery firm complaints

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 11, 2014

By Monique Roth

RESERVE – There was another bump in the road this week for St. John the Baptist Parish School Board and the efforts to rebuild Lake Pontchartrain Elementary and East St. John High School.

Superintendent Kevin George seemed to have gotten the recovery process finally on track with the selection of firms to handle both the disaster management and architectural aspects of the two projects. In a December 2014 meeting, the School Board approved George’s recommendation of Yeates and Yeates of New Orleans to handle the architectural workload and All South Consulting Engineers of Metairie for disaster management.

George explained that after that decision was made regarding the two companies picked, there was a 14-day period in which firms that did not get picked could file protests regarding the decision. Two firms filed such complaints, and those complaints led School Board President Clarence Triche to call for a special session School Board meeting that was held on Jan. 8.

Brad Guerin, the legal counselfor Chasm Fusion Architecture, was present at the meeting to protest the appointment of Yeates and Yeates as architects of the project.

Guerin presented information to the School Board that the selection process was mired because of the death of one of the members of the selection committee. The deceased member did not complete the entire selection process, which in Guerin’s opinion caused several indescrepencies in scoring and grading of the firms.

Guerin told the Board it was not adhering to the process that it had advertised and that funding of the rebuilding projects could be jeopardized because of the alleged inconsistencies.

Board member Russ Wise addressed Guerin and said that interesting points were made to the board. Wise read a memorandum from the School Board Attorney that stated the process the School Board used to reach its decision was acceptable to everyone, including FEMA and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Ben Plaia, legal representation from GOHSEP, told that board that as far as he was concerned the procedure that the board used was acceptable.

In a notably shorter presentation, Doug Wyne, a legal representative for Volkert, protested the pick of All South Consulting Engineers of Metairie for disaster management. The protest was in light of some parts of the bid form that All South left blank.

The board voted to dismiss both protests. School Board members Russell Jack, Patrick Sanders, Rodney Nicholas, Albert Burl and Phillip Johnson were all absent from the meeting.

The next step for the School Board regarding this matter will depend on any future legal action of the two protesting firms.