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Hemelt: Parish leaders should layout benefits of higher expenditure

St. John the Baptist Parish Councilmen Lennix Madere Jr. and Thomas Malik have been vocal about an opportunity they see before the Council as our elected leaders ponder which company to award a lucrative contract to clean the New Government Complex Building.

With proposals coming in anywhere from $10,151 to $21,864 per month, Council members hold the key to one company’s substantial windfall.

St. John administrators, led by President Natalie Robottom, are clear in their recommendation of All the Time Janitorial Service for the job. They noted All the Time ranked first out of seven proposals scored by the Source Selection Committee, which found the firm’s $10,151 per month proposal “significantly lower than other proposals.”

Administrators noted All the Time possessed adequate staffing, good employment references and familiarity with the building as it is currently cleaning the facility for the construction contractor.

Led by Madere and Malik, Council members balked earlier this month at awarding the contract to All the Time, instead tabling a decision on the matter.

Madere and Malik noted what the Parish might pay more for in initial month-to-month janitorial costs could benefit the community long-term if the contract was awarded to a St. John Parish business.

According to its website, All the Time Janitorial is a family owned business in Folsom.

During the most recent Council meeting, Malik said selecting a company with owners that live in St. John the Baptist Parish cultivates a spirit of entrepreneurship.

“I believe that if a resident of the parish starts a company and is awarded a contract, and that company is successful, then that is going to prompt them to start other companies in the parish,” Malik said. “I would much prefer to the see a St. John the Baptist corporation or LLC be awarded a parish contract, where we know that all of their employees will be hired within the parish.”

Madere says all too often local leaders ask residents to shop local but don’t contract local themselves.

“If I am going to tell the citizens to shop local, and we have three, four or five companies from St. John the Baptist Parish apply for the building and none of them get it, that don’t look too good,” he said. “I may be wrong with what I am saying, but that is the way I feel.”

Madere and Malik, who were joined earlier this month by Councilman Larry Snyder, are leading the charge to pass on simply rubber-stamping the contract award to the cheapest bidder.

They see this as an opportunity to shop local and inspire St. John-entrepreneurship at the same time.

If they believe in this approach, let’s take that pledge to the next level. If our elected leaders are, indeed, going to approve a contract funded by taxpayer dollars for a higher-priced vendor, then layout the benefit for the community.

Don’t spend more just on the basis of some company owner’s home address. How many local people is that company owner going to employ? How many local people are going to receive a livable wage from that company owner?

Contrast those numbers with what would have been the same for an out-of-town contractor. If the difference is truly a measurable boon for local residents, than the higher taxpayer expense could be justified.

If it doesn’t make sense or is not presented for the community to see the benefit, then what sounds like shopping local may be perceived as nothing more than the good old boy system.

We commend our elected leaders for working for and exploring all options that enrich our community. Doing so in the light of public view is all the better.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.