LIVINGSTON — Livingston Parish’s road overlay program is progressing despite the parish’s termination of its contract with the engineering firms that had been overseeing the project, according to parish officials.
Parish President Layton Ricks said the parish has hired inspectors who worked for the two terminated engineering firms to oversee the work and keep it moving.
The parish is in a legal battle with the engineering firms, Alvin Fairburn & Associates and McLin & Associates.
In late April, the Parish Council gave the companies 30-days notice that it was cancelling the contract to oversee parish roadwork.
The parish’s $3 million road overlay program was in progress when the contract was canceled.
At its last meeting, the council asked the parish’s Department of Public Works to inspect the work of the overlay contractors.
Department of Public Works Director Sam Digirolamo said he sent employees to the road work sites for four days until arrangements could be made to hire expert inspectors.
The department subsequently hired the inspectors, who had been doing the work for Fairburn and McLin, he said.
Digirolamo said he is paying the inspectors $25 an hour, which is basically the same hourly wage they were receiving from the engineering firms. They were hired as contractor workers rather than DPW employees, he said.
Overlay work by Coastal Bridge Co. has been able to continue during the transition, Digirolamo said.
Overlay work for this year’s program still needs to be completed in Denham Springs, Satsuma, Livingston and Watson, and minor work is needed to finish several roads in other areas, said.
Ricks said he expects the work to be completed in about five weeks.
The Parish Council’s letter of termination, sent to the engineering firms in April, says required analysis and other obligations under the contract were not met and planning work had proceeded without written notice.
The council also maintained contracts for services that aren’t covered by public bid law can’t exceed the terms of the council or parish president under Livingston Parish’s Home Rule Charter.
The contract was scheduled to run until 2021.
The council voted to terminate the contract, without proper cause, according to a subsequent lawsuit filed on behalf of the firms.
“There has never been an event of substantial failure to perform that would justify the council’s termination of the contract,” the lawsuit states.
Fairburn has handled the road overlay program for the parish for 15 years and has done work for the parish since the 1970s, said Eddie Aydell, chief engineer for Fairburn.
The contract termination followed a long battle over payment of a $453,000 bill the engineers submitted for road planning done for the previous council, which left office in January.
The previous council ordered then-Parish President Mike Grimmer to pay the bill last year, but outgoing Parish President Mike Grimmer refused, saying he hadn’t given written authorization for the engineering work and the engineers created plans for $11.4 million in roadwork when the parish only had about $3.5 million to spend.
Aydell said the firm did the work requested by the council and handled it in the same manner they had handled such work in previous years.
A District Court judge subsequently ordered Grimmer to pay the bill, but Grimmer appealed. He received no ruling before he left office.
Upon taking office in January, Ricks paid the bill. The current council, which has six new members, chastised Ricks for writing the check.
Later, the council also demanded the firms repay the parish $312,000.