BAKER — The Baker School Board declared an emergency Tuesday to replace the broken fire alarm system at Bakerfield Elementary and to authorize the superintendent to hire a company to do the work as soon as possible.
Board members Elaine Davis, Shona Boxie, Dana Carpenter, and Rosatina Johnson voted in favor of the measure at Tuesday’s special meeting. Doris Alexander was absent.
The board voted at its Dec. 8 meeting to replace the system following normal procurement procedures; however, after an article appeared in The Advocate, the decision was made to accelerate the process, Superintendent Herman Brister said.
Brister said at the Dec. 8 meeting that the alarm system was found to be nonfunctional during a routine fire drill, and after some assessment, it was determined it could not be repaired.
The new system should be operational by the time students return from holiday break Jan. 5, he said Tuesday.
In the meantime, the school remains under fire watch.
Louisiana Fire Marshal guidelines require certain staff members to maintain hourly fire watch routes through buildings without working fire alarm systems. Log sheets documenting the work must be kept.
The custodian and principal at Bakerfield are working together on the fire watch, Brister said, making rounds of the school every 30 minutes.
School board attorney Winston DeCuir said state procurement law allows government entities to use a faster procurement process whenever there is a risk to property or persons.
“It doesn’t eliminate the need for competition, it just speeds up the process,” he said.
Unlike the normal procurement process, with an emergency procurement, there is no requirement that the school board accept bids for 30 days. Instead, school officials may secure competitive offers from qualified vendors as soon as possible, DeCuir said.
Negotiations with three companies have already begun, Brister said.
He declined to give the names of the firms but estimated the cost of the new system will be at least $50,000, based on the discussions so far.
Brister said he expects school officials will make a final decision in the next few days, and the chosen company will begin work next week.
Installation of the new fire alarm system will be a complicated job involving “a complete electrical reworking,” he said.
New smoke detectors must be installed and connected to the sprinkler system as well as the emergency response system.
The current alarm system at Bakerfield was probably installed when the building was constructed, sometime before the Baker School District broke from the East Baton Rouge Parish School District in 2003, Brister said.