Janitorial services contract cost blows past St. John Council-approved budget

Published 12:14 am Saturday, December 29, 2018

LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish Council approved a 2019 operating budget that allocates $120,000 for janitorial services of the local government’s new complex at the corner of Belle Terre Boulevard and Airline Highway.

This is a concern, Parish President Natalie Robottom says, because it illegally contradicts a Council-approved janitorial services contract that calls for Star Maintenance to charge the parish $21,864 per month, which is more than $142,000 over budget.

“We have money to clean the building — $120,000 a year, which is reasonable and can be done,” Robottom told L’OBSERVATEUR this week. “However, what we didn’t budget was for the highest price submittal. You cannot award a contract for more money than you have budgeted.”

During this week’s Parish Council meeting, District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut told Council members “it is very, very important when you award contracts that you have money in that particular line item because we don’t want to have legal issues.”

The janitorial services contract was approved in November by a 4-3 vote with two abstentions. Council members Kurt Becnel, Lennix Madere Jr., Julia Remondet and Larry Sorapuru Jr. approved the contract over a Robottom-recommended bid of $10,151 per month from All the Time Janitorial.

The uproar from community members concerned with the drastic difference in proposal prices and confusion over how Parish Council votes should be tabulated when abstentions are involved have kept the otherwise benign janitorial services contract in the public consciousness and a topic of Parish Council agendas for the past four meetings.

Numerous Parish Council sources have told L’OBSERVATEUR that at least one Parish Council member voted in favor of the janitorial services contract even though he or she did not support it and believed four votes weren’t enough to pass it.

New bid

Star Maintenance has since resubmitted a price per month charge of $14,600, according to Robottom, which, if accepted, would still come in more than $55,000 over approved budget.

“We need to look at what you cut out or changed that you can reduce your number from $21,000 to $14,000,” Robottom said. “Did you eliminate people? What is your proposal now offering? Even if we accept this, those funds are not available. That is a violation of the local budget act.”

Star Maintenance is co-owned by Dale Wolfe, a former longtime Parish Council member.

When contacted by L’OBSERVATEUR, Wolfe was reluctant to address the contract controversy on record, saying he didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the contract.

“I wish I could say what I really need to,” Wolfe said. “It’s a shame.”

Madere, who has been the Parish Council member most vocal in supporting Star Maintenance’s contract, said he spoke with several janitorial companies to get their opinions on how much it should cost a month to clean the new government complex.

“The lowest end was about $14,500 or $14,200; somewhere in that area,” Madere said. “The highest totaled in the $16,000 range. $14,000 to $16,000 a month would be a fair and equitable price for that type of building, so (a contractor is) not taking advantage of the Parish as far as money.

“I think administration should look into those types of things to have a range and an understanding of what price is ridiculously too low or ridiculously too high. I don’t think pricing should be the real tipping point. Performance, for me, should be the tipping point.”

Angela Wells, who co-owns All the Time Janitorial, told L’OBSERVATEUR she was never contacted by Madere to participate in his janitorial survey.

Wells said she can easily make a profit charging St. John Parish taxpayers $10,151 per month.

Citing invoices and estimates she is happy to provide Parish Council members, Wells said her payroll to three employees would run $5,400 a month and initial supply stocking (which would be highest in the beginning) would run $2,673.56 a month, leaving room for profit.

“In the survey he did, why didn’t Mr. Madere survey me and ask how I got that number?” Wells said. “He doesn’t want me in there, because they want who they want because it’s hand picked. Why have a (request for proposal) anyway?”


Robottom said All the Time Janitorial had been cleaning the new government complex during the construction process and would continue to do so in January under a one-month purchase order agreement that stays within the Parish Council-approved budget allotment.

— News editor Brooke Robichaux contributed to this report.