More delays to New River dredging project, weir replacement approved

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

East Ascension Drainage Commission emerged from its third Executive Session on Monday (well, seven of the commissioners did since Joel Robert and Corey Orgeron had bolted after a near altercation and Travis Turner was absent) to take up the agenda’s last item:

Executive Session:  Update on New River Dredging contract negotiations with Bridging the Gap Solutions, LLC (Jean Paul Robert, Legal Counsel)

Councilman/Commissioner Michael Mason, sans explanation, made the motion which would be approved by acclimation:

“I move that, if the current party does not agree  to the contract by Thursday at 4:30 p.m. we move on to the next lowest bid.”

The “current party,” Bridging the Gap (the company dropped “Solution” {not “Solutions”} from its moniker on July 17, 2020, eight months after its incorporation), had yet to accept to accept the bid awarded it by the Board on September 20.

New River dredging to commence in “a couple of weeks”

It all serves to further the delay of a project that has been put off too long already.

Originally it called for 2.7 miles of dredging but President Clint Cointment initiated work “in-house” four months ago as another in a never-ending queue of storms threatened Ascension in mid-June.  Parish DPW undertook installation of a gate valve to replace the weir in Smith Bayou and commence dredging half-a-mile of New River.  Cointment’s DPW was also supposed to replace the weir behind Walmart with a control structure pursuant to an amendment to the initial approval, but that job was approved to let for bid (see below).

As currently configured, EA Drainage awarded “the largest project this body has approved” in September when a $3,299,285 bid for New River Channel Improvements was accepted by a unanimous vote.  One of two, Bridging the Gap’s bid came in $1.5 million lower than Boone Services’ offering to dredge 2.2 miles of New River in furtherance of a project first approved in 2017.

It was the second time EA Drainage awarded the contract to Bridging the Gap, the first having been enjoined by Judge Tess Percy Stromberg in litigation filed by Boone Services (the second-place bidder on both occasions), pushing its bid to the winner’s circle temporarily.  The ruling was premised upon what appears to be a clerical error, Judge Stromberg reasoning:

“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.”

Bridging the Gap appealed to the First Circuit where the case, while unresolved, would seem to be moot after EA Drainage went out for the second bid.

On September 20 Project Engineer H. Davis Cole reassured the Board, already frustrated by the multiple delays:

“The contractor is ready to go, in a couple of weeks…We will account for every cubic yard that comes out of the canal every day, and the contractor will be paid based on that.”

Oops.

The miscalculation on H. Davis Cole’s part did not prevent its receiving another $110,000 worth of engineering work from EA Drainage.  The boost to its existing contract is for…

services it will render toward installation of a Tilting Weir Control Structure in place of the existing weir in New River:

“5 tilting gates fixed with reinforced concrete structure which will allow for the weirs to be opened to the channel bottom elevation of -2.0 feet during significant rain events and closed to the design channel water structure elevation of 2.0 feet during dry weather.”

The control structure option was chosen due to the insistence/persistence of President Clint Cointment.  Its price tag is estimated at $1.5 million, significantly less than all four options presented by H. Davis Cole in 2017 when former Drainage Director Bill Roux was pitching a $20 million project, insisting that the City of Gonzales pick up half of the tab.  The Board approved the job going out for bid on Monday, after approving the engineering fees (see below).

NOTE: Roux’s attempts to cast the City of Gonzales as the culprit holding up the project, while ludicrous, delayed relief to quite a lot of residents inside/outside of the city limits.  He’s the perfect choice for EA Drainage Liaison given how Chairman Dempsey Lambert runs the shop.

New River weir

Approved by the Board, H. Davis Cole’s itemized costs:

  • Preliminary Design-$44,062
  • Detailed Design-$44,062
  • Building Services under Public Bid-$6,295
  • Geotechnical Design-$6,500
  • USACE Permitting-$10,000

When/if the project is built (given the delays of this project, who can say) H. Davis Cole is in line for another $93,873:

  • Construction Administration-$31,473
  • Resident Inspection Services ($65/hour)-$62,400

 

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