The Housing Authority of New Orleans is scheduled Thursday to vote on hiring new contractors for the $43 million Guste Phase III housing complex redevelopment, the most significant move yet in a project that's been stalled for almost two years.

HANO’s board will also decide on an outside firm to oversee construction progress after the agency staffer in charge of that work left the authority last year. 

Guste III, a 155-unit housing project in Central City that was supposed to be finished in 2015, is the last of three phases of renovation to the old Melpomene housing development, later renamed the William J. Guste Apartments.

The first two phases were finished in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

But the third phase ran into trouble after the company that was initially supposed to do the work, Parkcrest Builders of Houston, failed to finish the work on time and was terminated.

That same firm was also fired from the Florida redevelopment project in the 9th Ward after similar delays, according to HANO Executive Director Gregg Fortner.

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In the case of Guste, HANO first turned to Liberty Mutual, the bonding company that was obligated to wrap up the project if Parkcrest did not. Liberty rehired Parkcrest, which again moved sluggishly on the work, prompting HANO to fire both companies and hire new contractors to finish Guste in spurts, as funding became available.

Cost overruns related to Guste and other projects forced HANO to dip into its surplus last year to balance its budget, the second time the housing authority has done so in as many years.

HANO has worked since then to fix the problem, hiring Colmex Construction to address leftover problems with the 10 units Parkcrest did ultimately renovate, officials said. Tenants moved into those apartments in October. The authority paid Colmex about $256,000 to fix up 12 others; that work is ongoing.

Thursday’s move, if approved, would clear the way for Colmex and Gibbs Construction to rehab a total of 91 additional units.

The HANO board is scheduled to meet and vote on the proposal at 4 p.m. Thursday at HANO headquarters on Touro Street.

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HANO would pay Colmex no more than $1.9 million to fix up a total of 42 more units in 17 buildings and Gibbs no more than $13 million to fix up 49 units in one building.

Both firms were the sole bidders on the work, and both asked for more money than HANO was initially willing to pay, though the agency later relented after reviewing the work the firms said they would do.

If HANO’s board approves the prices, Colmex is supposed to finish its 42 units within three months, while Gibbs would finish its work in seven months.

HANO plans to award at least one more contract for the completion of the remaining Guste units, officials said, though it’s not clear when.

More competitors applied for the agency’s oversight contract. Of the four firms seeking that job, ECM Consultants of Metairie received the highest score from an evaluation committee, 87 on a 100-point scale. It said it would charge no more than $189,750 to monitor progress on the remaining portions of the project.

When finished, Guste III will include 99 public housing units or units paid for with low-income housing tax credits, 10 units solely for public housing residents and 46 units for tenants with housing vouchers.

The renovation work is being financed largely through $30 million in state bond money, awarded in 2012.

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.