LIVINGSTON — In a peculiar chain of events, the Livingston Parish School Board has invoked a portion of a Louisiana statute that addresses emergencies to suspend public bid law for repairs to a school cafeteria roof.
Each summer, while students are away, several campuses get reshingled, Superintendent John Watson said. This year, Gray’s Creek Elementary south of Denham Springs was slated for maintenance, but crews also found evidence of structural damage, possibly caused by wind.
The superintendent said students had not been in danger, but the problem would have to be corrected before the next school year started. As the problem was discovered in June, authorities decided not to wait several weeks for the official bidding process, unsure if the repairs would even top the $150,000 threshold that requires governments to put a project out to bid.
The repairs have run about $180,000 so far, Watson said, so during its last meeting, the School Board approved an emergency retroactive suspension of public bid law allowing the unbid project to proceed. On Friday, it was not immediately clear which companies received payment for the roof work.
State bid law “shall not apply in cases of public emergency where such emergency has been certified to by the public entity. ...” states a portion of the Louisiana statute cited by board attorney Mark Boyer.
Public emergencies are defined, in part, as those that interrupt “the continued function of a public entity.” School officials said construction on the Gray’s Creek roof would have interrupted regular operations.
A few days before classes resumed, work on the project had nearly finished, though on Thursday evening, local board member Buddy Mincey said crews would still work at night for a few more days to wrap up construction.
Suspension of public bid law is rare, Watson said. He can’t recall the school system taking such action since he was named superintendent in 2012 but said it may have happened in the past during a disaster such as a hurricane.
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