Boone Construction in, James Moore company out as New River project contractor

James Moore (l) with his pal, Gonzales Chief of Police Sherman Jackson.

The agenda items on tomorrow’s Special Meeting of the East Ascension Drainage Commission actually merit a special meeting.  Two major Capital Projects on the drawing board for decades, Laurel Ridge Levee Extension and New River Channel Improvements seem near fruition.  The Commission is scheduled to consider approval of Boone Construction’s bid for the New River project and will consider the Laurel Ridge Levee project in Executive Session to consider pending litigation against Livingston Parish.

Budgeted at $5 million, dredging of New River and replacing its weir with a control structure was initially awarded to Bridging the Gap Solutions which submitted a $3,944,300 bid; significantly lower than Boone’s $4,698,296 bid.  Subsequently “Solutions” was dropped from the low-bidder’s corporate moniker, a technicality insufficient to derail its offering.  But there were other miscues which the 23rd Judicial District Court was unable to ignore.

The second place bidder filed suit, seeking an injunction against Ascension Parish and the low bidder from entering into a contract.  The suit was successful.

Louisiana Bid Law mandates, among numerous technical requirements, that a bidder must include a signatory with evidence of authority to represent the corporate entity.  Judge Tess Percy Stromberg, in her Reasons for Judgment, found that Bridging the Gap (BTG) failed to provide sufficient evidence that James Moore had such authority.  She explained:

“Boone asserts that BTG’s bid did not contain a certificate of authority, and therefore, the Parish of Ascension accepted BTG’s bid in violation of Revised Statute 38:2212…The Court further finds that BTG’s bid packet was devoid of any other written evidence of the annual report on file with the secretary of state at the time that the bid was submitted such that the Court would be able to determine if Mr. Moore was listed as a corporate officer or member on those records…that BTG’s bid packet was devoid of any written evidence that BTG filed, into the appropriate records, an affidavit, resolution, or other acknowledged authentic document showing that Mr. Moore was authorized to submit bids for public contracts.”

The Commission is also scheduled to take up Parish of Livingston, et al. v. State of Louisiana, et al. in Executive Session.  Parish President Clint Cointment and various members of the Parish Council, ten of whom will sit as EA Drainage Commission, have urged resolution of this three-year old lawsuit.  Livingston Parish has done little in the way of prosecuting its suit.

As of December no action whatever had been taken by either litigant in the suit between the parishes since July of 2018.  If that continues it would be abandoned in July 2021; easy enough to avoid by a virtually unlimited menu of procedural maneuvers.  Congressman Garret Graves contributed nothing but delay of the levee extension, exactly what Livingston Parish hoped to achieve with its lawsuit.

Apparently, that has changed as Livingston’s tactical delay may have achieved results.  Speculation has it that Livingston may be willing to dismiss its speculative suit in return for a long-discussed project to allow drainage under Hwy 22 as it approaches Diversion Canal in Ascension.  Funding would issue from the Governor John Bel Edwards-influenced Louisiana Watershed Initiative.

Ascension Parish has been more than patient, especially considering that Livingston’s engineering claims have been deemed “flimsy.”  Laurel Ridge Levee Extension is permitted, meaning the US Army Corps of Engineers has stamped its approval and Pontchartrain Levee District is a participant in the project.  Both entities are supposed to ensure that one parish’s projects do not adversely impact neighboring parishes.

Will the Commission exit Executive Session with big news?  It’s about time.