Concordia school board forms committee to look at new central office building

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2023

VIDALIA, La. — The Concordia Parish School Board, while still lacking a central office to house staff members and host meetings, has millions of dollars worth of projects lined up for 2023.

Tuesday’s school board meeting took place again at Vidalia City Hall, where the school board has had its meetings since evacuating the central office building in September after mold spores developed in parts of the building.

The school board unanimously accepted a bid to clean up the mold issue for $85,852 on Tuesday. The work should take six weeks to complete, but it will not fix what started the problem, officials said.

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Another bid was received for $234,000, and the school board chose the lesser of the two.

Superintendent Toyua Bachus recommended the board seek more bids to fix the issue at the source. Officials said gutters were not put back around the building when a new roof was installed some years ago, which may have prevented water from properly draining away from the building.

“I don’t feel comfortable letting the staff go back to where we cleaned up, but we haven’t fixed the problem,” Bachus said. “It’s like wiping up spilled milk when the milk is still being poured.”

Taunton made the motion that the board seek bids to fix the building issues that caused the mold and the motion to do so passed 8-1. Board member Derrick Carson voted against it. He said his reason for voting no was “questions I have about enhancing a building we do not own using public funds”

The current central office space on Carter Street, across the highway from Vidalia City Hall, is leased from Steve Weeks of Vidalia for $2,500 a month and the lease expires in August 2026, officials said. The lease states the school board is responsible for maintaining the building and that it must be restored to the condition it was in when the school board moved it before they can leave.

“We’ve been in the building 22 years,” Carson said. “I’ve done a lot of leases and this is not a lease I would’ve done for myself or any client of mine. … The lease says we’re responsible for everything.”

A committee of four board members was chosen to look at the feasibility of a new central office building. These committee members are Taunton, Wilson, Marsalis and Dorothy Parker.

The school board also discussed just under $9.5 million worth of projects for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which will pay for new widows, bathroom fixtures, and HVAC units at all of the district’s schools.

The school board will soon be looking for proposals for a new school bus contract.

Carson said, “I want it placed on record that we’re not going to continue the contract with Durham (School Services) as it stands and that we’re going to submit a request for proposals for a new school bus contract for the upcoming school year.”

Carson said the company had increased its rates over the years. The current cost of the contract with Durham School Services, which expires on July 31, was not immediately available.

The school board also discussed replacing the roof at Monterey High School and Ferriday Lower Elementary, where there are leaks in both buildings. They voted unanimously to move forward with installing new school security cameras, alarms, access speakers on entry doors, and vape detectors in bathrooms at all of the district’s schools. The cost is $786,409 but they retained the option to add parking lot cameras with license place readers and facial recognition software to the contract, with altogether would have cost $1.6 million. The project has been budgeted for the next fiscal year, Bachus said.