Parish Council, administration disagree over West Bank Tank Rehabilitation federal funding

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017

LAPLACE — The issue surrounding St. John the Baptist Parish Council’s decision to reject Parish President Natalie Robottom’s recommendation as to who should be awarded a contract for the West Bank Tank Rehabilitation Project resurfaced last week.

The potential resolutions discussed during last week’s Council meeting created vocal acrimony between some Council members and the administration.

In April, Council members voted to award a $68,745 contract on the project to C&S Consultants of New Orleans, rejecting Robottom’s recommendation of Principal Engineering, which has several offices scattered throughout the south and lists former St. John Public Utilities Director Henry DiFranco Jr. as the firm’s president.

According to the points system used by Parish officials to rate proposals, Principal Engineering was rated the highest and C&S third.

Councilman Larry Snyder said one rationale behind the decision was to award a contract to a small and disadvantaged business. He said the parish has used C&S in the past and “they did good work.”

In two previous meetings, Robottom claimed the Council’s action jeopardized the EPA grant that would pick up the tab for the contract.

During last week’s Council meeting, Snyder said he spoke with Kevin Belander of the South Central Planning and Development Commission, which is the pass through agency for the EPA grant, and was informed St. John would not lose the grant if the Administration sent a letter detailing the change.

South Central Planning would then submit the letter to the EPA and the grant should be awarded.

“With all due respect, the Administration believes we went through the proper process and followed EPA guidelines,” Chief Administrative Officer Laverne Toombs said, stressing concern about sending such a letter.

Snyder said he respects the Administration’s concern but added it is in the Council’s scope to reject Robottom’s recommendation.

“Why are we having reluctance from the Administration to write the letter,” he asked.

Toombs said she believes the Administration and Council are not on the same page, adding, “we get a bit of a different story” from South Central Planning than the Council.

— By Richard Meek