Livingston Parish President Mike Grimmer’s “personal power struggles” have sidetracked the parish’s road program, a pair of firms allege in a letter to the state engineering board.
The firms — Alvin Fairburn and Associates and McLin & Associates — say they are caught in a battle between Grimmer and a majority of the Parish Council.
Their letter is a response to a complaint filed by Grimmer, who alleges that the firms did work for which he didn’t give written authorization.
For years, Grimmer and the council have recognized that the council’s sending of a road list to the firms is the written authorization required in the contract between the firms and the council, according to the joint response by Fairburn and McLin.
“We believe that Mr. Grimmer’s attempts to block progress on the road projects may have something to do with wishing to hurt selected council members politically” and trying to block Fairburn and McClin from doing parish engineering work, the firms state.
“Mr. Grimmer has constantly attacked the majority of seven Livingston Parish Council members whom he sees as standing in the way of his intended actions in our parish,” the firms say, adding that they are “caught in the middle” of the dispute.
In the letter to the Louisiana Professional Engineering and Land Surveying Board, Fairburn and McClin say Grimmer also has “made false accusations” about the firms.
“Unfortunately for the citizens of Livingston Parish, Mr. Grimmer’s personal power struggles have for a time successfully blocked the Parish Council’s attempts to continue with paving and maintenance of parish roads since the 2008 road program,” the letter says.
After Grimmer “refused to carry out the Livingston Parish Council’s repeated majority vote to proceed with building of the roads submitted to us on the 2020 Road List, he ignored and never responded to our March 30, 2011 letter to him requesting a meeting to discuss any questions he might have,” the letter states.
Grimmer couldn’t be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
To Grimmer’s public complaint that the firms prepared plans for $11.5 million in road work when the parish only had $3.5 million to spend this year, Eddie Aydell, Fairburn’s chief engineer, said the company had no way of knowing how much money the parish had available.
The letter to the engineering board says the firms estimated to the council that the cost of a mile of newly designed overlaid road was about $330,000 and urged the council to use that number in planning its 2010 road list.
The firms say they then prepared plans on the road list the council sent to them and that construction on those plans would have totaled $11.5 million.
Fairburn presented the council with those plans and a bill for $747,271, according to the complaint filed by Grimmer.
The Parish Council voted 7-2 to pay the bill, with Marshall Harris and Cindy Wale dissenting, but Grimmer said there were problems with the bill and refused to pay it.
In March, Fairburn reduced its bill, saying that a clerical employee used the wrong percentage in calculating the engineering fee.
Last week, the council gave Grimmer five days to pay the revised bill of $452,961.
Grimmer said in an interview he won’t pay that bill because he never authorized the work, but will pay about $170,000 in engineering fees on the $3.5 million of road work that the parish can afford.
Julie J. Baxter, the attorney for Fairburn, said the company plans to ask a court to order Grimmer to pay the bill.
The resolution instructing Grimmer to pay the firms was one of three resolutions concerning the matter that the council passed in a special meeting Tuesday.
The council also instructed Grimmer to withdraw the complaint to the state engineering board against the firms.
In the third resolution, the council voted to send a letter to the engineering board saying the council does not feel that Fairburn or McLin violated any ethical standards in connection with the parish road overlay project.
Councilmen Jimmie McCoy, Eddie Wagner, Ronnie Sharp, Randy Rushing and A.C. “Buddy” Mincey voted for all three motions.
Councilwoman Cindy Wale abstained, saying she wasn’t ready to vote on the motions without first hearing the reasoning of Grimmer, who left the meeting before the motion.