OVER BUDGET: Concordia Parish School Board cuts $500K off ESSER project

Published 8:59 am Wednesday, December 20, 2023

VIDALIA, La. — Water leaks through old HVAC units that sit on the roof of Concordia Education Center in Ferriday and seeps through the ceilings, but there’s not enough federal relief money to fix the issue.

The roof of the facility is fairly new, but the old units leave holes for rainwater to get in, school officials said. Some board members were not satisfied when project manager Marco Gonzalez said that replacing them had to be cut from the parish’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund projects, because the funds expire on Sept. 30, 2024.

Overall, the project entails the replacement of HVAC Units and windows at each of the district’s schools.

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“Come Jan. 1, all the HVAC pricing, like it happened last year, is going to start going up,” Gonzalez said.

Construction at Vidalia and Monterey schools is well underway, Gonzalez said. However, the lowest bid for HVAC units at the remaining schools is still $500,000 over budget.

Hope Contractors of Shreveport had the lowest bid on the HVAC units at $3,172,000. To shave off the $500,000 over budget, schools that have HVAC units still in “good working condition” were cut, Gonzalez said.

Two rooftop units were removed from the project scope for Ferriday High School and no units will be replaced at Concordia Parish Academy or Concordia Education Center on the ESSER grant, he said.

He added that the window portion was so far over budget that it will have to bid rebid because the board cannot legally accept a bid more than 10 percent over budget.

“Because (the HVAC bid) was within that 10 percent we’re able to work with that contractor to work out a price,” he said. “We’ve had to rounds with the contractor to try to work that pricing down.”

Gonzalez consulted with the school districts business affairs manager Tom O’Neal and other school officials to come up with a proposal for the school board before the accepted the bid Thursday.

“I didn’t come up with this in a vacuum,” he said. “It was a whole group of people working together.”

Board member Derrick Carson said he’d rather the school district rebid the cut project portion, even if it means the board would come out of pocket for the cost.

“Looking back at our minutes … the board wanted to move forward as planned and then figure out the finances,” Carson said. “I want to find a way to do those things.”

He also requested more detail on the units that wouldn’t be replaced.

“If we pass on it now, we need to be looking at how far into the future those units will need to be replaced. I’m looking at this as our one opportunity to get a lot of things done that haven’t been done in years,” Carson said.

The school board unanimously agreed to advertise those bids during its Thursday meeting and accepted the amended ESSER project bid.