Recommended by the Parish Council Transportation Committee on Tuesday, $2,405,000 will be added to Ascension’s contract with HNTB engineers with an additional six months. Approval by the full council a mere formality, what are taxpayers getting in return for the contractual add-on, foregoing the bid process annually since HNTB landed the deal four years ago?
“If somebody sees that amount they’re going to be like, ‘that’s a big amount.’ Is there a comparison to years past?” wondered Councilman Dal Waguespack aloud.
There wasn’t, at least not on Tuesday.
HNTB’s Jeff Burst was on hand to justify the “larger amount for Program Management than prior years” explaining that the contract amount is divvied up among five subconsultants who perform a range of necessary tasks:
- Environmental Clearance and Corps of Engineer permitting
- Right-of-Way acquisition
- Traffic modeling and analysis
- Topographic surveying and property mapping
- Public Information and Outreach
Burst did not identify those subconsultants and, in a divergence from regular procedure, no packet materials were included with the published agenda on the parish website. The MoveAscension link on the website identifies, without linking any subconsultant to a specific task, does name the companies. The Program Management Team, in addition to HNTB, includes CSRS engineers, ELOS Environmental, Civix and Franklin Associates.
CSRS and ELOS Environmental have lengthy work histories with Ascension Parish.
NOTE: Coincidentally, Franklin Associates was in line to receive a $190,531 Public Information & Outreach contract “as part of the Move Ascension initiative” on February 15, 2018 but the council thought better of the expenditure when Citizen Clint Cointment spoke in opposition.
Having just received now President Cointment’s proposed budget for 2022, the Move Ascension Initiative is in line for $27 million according to Transportation Chairman Aaron Lawler who provided the pertinent line items:
- Engineering Fees-$4.88 million
- Professional Services-$165,000
- Acquisition of Right-of-Way-$7.2 million
- Contractual Payments (Construction)-$16 million
Which, not to quibble, adds up to $28,245,000.
The Move Ascension website lists four projects IN PROGESS, three of which were on Tuesdays’ agenda for change orders.
“I always look at change orders and see where we are in those,” declared Chairman Lawler with a straight face. “And I have to commend your department, right now, Mr. (Joey) Tureau. When we budget something we’re staying very close to where we have to be.
- Roddy Road Intersection Improvements at Norwood and Merritt Evans-$8,144 change order to add a catch basin/pipe to enclose a ditch (2.6%).
- Hwy 930/Henry Road Roundabout-$21,735 change order to excavate existing ditch and add necessary aggregate (1.6%).
- C Braud Road Safety Widening-$149,275 to revise plans to provide the same size drainage pipes as currently exist at respective driveways (6.2%)
“Still within 10%,” Lawler said of No. 3. “And we actually saved, based on redesign, about $400,000 on this project so we’re still doing very well on the project.”
That’s one way to spin it. Of course, had the original design not merited revision…Was the designing engineer paid for both?
The 2020 Road Rehabilitation contract saw a cost overrun of $67,852 (2.7%).