Plans for the building of a new Edna Karr High School in Algiers, scuttled last year after one contractor was banned from the project and another dropped out, are moving forward, Orleans Parish school system officials report.
Core Construction will handle the project on the old JoEllen Smith Medical Center site on Gen. Meyer Avenue.
Officials will hold a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the JoEllen Smith Living Center, 4502 Gen. Meyer Ave., to get public input on the construction plans, which have been submitted to the City Planning Commission. That commission has yet to approve the plans.
The $7.1 million demolition of the old JoEllen Smith building will occur from December to June, Orleans Parish School Board Chief Financial Officer Stan Smith said. Building the new Karr school at that site will cost $42.7 million and will last from September 2016 to June 2018.
The planned demolition comes more than a year after Woodward Design+Build and Nolmar Corp., the original prime contractor and subcontractor on the project, were banned because of Nolmar’s ties to School Board member Nolan Marshall Jr. His half-siblings run the company, and the board’s contract with the firm might have run afoul of state ethics law.
Those laws generally prohibit a public official’s immediate family members from entering into a contract with an agency under that official’s purview, though they are less clear on whether half-siblings qualify as “immediate family.”
In addition, other School Board members raised questions about Woodward’s close ties to Nolmar. Woodward then owned a 49 percent stake in Nolmar, which is a certified disadvantaged business enterprise. Essentially, critics said, that meant Woodward would have been both the prime contractor and the DBE subcontractor.
After the Woodward-Nolmar team was tossed out in June 2014, the School Board turned to another contractor, Womack-Tillage, but the two sides could not agree on costs.
Woodward and Nolmar’s partnership has garnered controversy beyond the Edna Karr contract. The two firms are now under review by the Housing Authority of New Orleans for a potential violation of its disadvantaged business enterprise contracting policy, though the alleged misstep in this case involves Nolmar funneling its work on the Iberville public housing complex redevelopment to non-DBEs.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Woodward still owns a 49 percent stake in Nolmar, but Nolmar has since paid a debt to Woodward and that is no longer the case.
Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA.