Kitchens in 16 non-air-conditioned Lafayette Parish schools could change that by next semester after the Lafayette Parish School Board placed orders for the projects on Wednesday.
With a slight majority, the board approved the assignment of contracts for mechanical engineering services to two companies, ADG Engineering and M&E Consulting, with the schools divided into two phases.
ADG will be working on Phase 1, which will include Acadiana High, Carencro Middle, Ovey Comeaux High, Katherine Drexel Elementary, JW Faulk Elementary, Myrtle Place Elementary, and Woodvale Elementary.
M&E will conduct Phase 2 which will include Broadmoor Elementary, Broussard Middle, Evangeline Elementary, Judice Middle, Lafayette High, Cpl. Michael Middlebrook Elementary, Ridge Elementary, and Truman Early Childhood Education Center.
The award of these contracts would enable the work to begin towards the end of this school year, although a large part of the construction work could be completed by the summer, according to the board of directors.
Executive Vice President Donald Aguillard suggested awarding these contracts directly rather than going through a different lottery or RFP process for reasons of urgency, he said.
“Given that this has been on the books since 2018 – the idea that we have 16 kitchens in our schools that are not air-conditioned – I thought it best to go back to the engineering firms that have proven they are Projects can complete on time and on budget, “said Aguillard, who was Superintendent of the Lafayette Schools through May 2019.
The companies are two of three companies selected several years ago to install air conditioning in middle and senior gyms across the district. Aguillard said the third, Poché Prouet Associates Ltd., had recently received a large project so he suggested the other two in the interest of time.
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“We (want) to get them up and running as soon as possible so that by the start of school in August we should probably have these climate projects close to graduation, so that these ladies don’t have to work in the conditions they have now because there aren’t any gives air conditioning, “said Aguillard.
Kyle Bordelon, director of planning and facilities for the district, said each of the kitchens would cost an average of $ 130,000 to $ 150,000, depending on the school. This corresponds to a total of at least US $ 2 million to be covered by the System’s Self Funded Construction Fund.
The issue of bringing the air conditioning into the kitchen wasn’t really an issue, but rather the selection process for those who do the job.
“I have no doubt that the engineers are highly qualified,” said board member Elroy Broussard. “I want the cafeterias in my schools to be air-conditioned like everyone else. I just want to be transparent and consistent in how we do it.”
Broussard was among several board members who expressed concern about direct procurement rather than following a more objective process, and returned to a longstanding and ongoing board debate on best practice for small capital projects.
The board members planned with the district staff to conduct a selection process and in the meantime voted on the task at hand.
“The quickest way to do this is what we do now,” said Bordelon. “We are aware of their abilities. Both companies have a lot of staff.”
Five voted for the award. Broussard and Tehmi Chaisson abstained. Board members Hannah Smith Mason and Justin Centanni voted against.
“I am voting against all direct orders,” said Centanni.
Contact the children’s reporter, Leigh Guidry, at email@example.com or on Twitter @LeighGGuidry.