Apparently, President Kenny Matassa’s administration no longer issues Requests for Proposal/Qualification when doling out millions to his favorite engineering firm. 10 months left until Matassa is out of office and he is starting to remember who his friends really are. A last minute addition to Thursday’s Council meeting agenda:
(12) Approval to amend the Utilities contract with GSA to add $350,300 for the Riverton Force Main/Lift Station project and to use funds from the water/wastewater construction fund for this amendment (William Daniel, Infrastructure Director)
So, the catchall “Utilities contract with GSA” is being padded, again, without going through the “engineer and technical services selection board” established by Ordinance 2-81 to select the best firm. For a while there it seemed like HNTB had become Ascension’s go-to engineering firm. Word has it that there’s a lot more money on the way for GSA as the parish resuscitates plans for east bank sanitary sewer.
In August 2017 GSA was awarded a contract worth $150,000 to perform engineering work in the effort to secure funding from United States Department of Agriculture intended to pay for upgrades of Peoples Water Company. The parish purchased the dilapidated system on September 21, 2016 knowing significant improvements, and capital investment, were needed. The USDA loan ($9.5 million)/grant (just under $8 million) is supposed to replace one-third of the worst pipes and other physical assets.
The value of GSA’s contract was increased by a factor of 17 when the Council approved ” Drinking Water Infrastructure Improvements Project” as part of the December 13 Consent Agenda. It was added pursuant to a Utilities Committee recommendation two days earlier. Never once was the contract amount mentioned during the Utilities deliberation.
On January 30 new Council chair, Teri Casso wrote this about “that 2+million dollars” tacked on to “the Utilities contract with GSA” in an email to Ascension’s auditor:
“I cannot stress how important it is that we not be surprised by what ‘felt like’ an improper awarding of a contract in December. I do believe it was appropriately awarded, but it was close. I don’t want this near miss to happen again.”
What’s another $350,300 among friends? Maybe GSA’s Glenn Shaheen can help Matassa out with those legal fees incurred to defend against felony bribery charges in 2017-18.