Livingston council moves on road overlay work

Layton Ricks
Layton Ricks

— To applause and whistling from the audience, the Livingston Parish Council moved Thursday to end a tug-of-war with Parish President Layton Ricks that has long delayed the parish road overlay work.

The council voted unanimously to approve the engineering firm Ricks’ recommended to handle the road overlay work. The council had been at odds with Ricks over how the selection process was handled.

Council Chairman Ricky Goff said after the meeting that road work is likely to begin in late April,

The vote to hire Burk-Kleinpeter Inc., of Baton Rouge, came nearly six months after Ricks first informed the council he had signed a contract with the firm, just as the council was preparing to publish a request for qualifications for the work.

The council, which had unanimously removed funding for the parish’s road overlay program from the parish’s 2013 budget, maintained that because funds for the engineering work were not budgeted, Ricks needed the council’s approval to hire an engineering firm.

Calling the contract with Burk-Kleinpeter nothing more than “a gentlemen’s agreement,” the council pushed forward with its own RFQ process in November but received only one response.

In an effort to end the stalemate, parish officials reached a compromise in December in which Ricks would put aside his contract with Burk-Kleinpeter and publish his own RFQ for the work, then bring his recommendation to the council for approval.

Ten firms responded to the new RFQ, and Ricks and Public Works Director Sam Digirolamo pared the applicants to the Burk-Kleinpeter firm, Neel-Schaffer of Baton Rouge and Meyer Meyer LaCroix and Hixson of Alexandria.

Burk-Kleinpeter won Ricks’ recommendation because of the firm’s extensive experience specifically with road overlay programs, Ricks said.

Ricks said he did not use a scoring system in selecting a firm because he feared it would allow politics into the process.

Grant-writing and procurement consultant John Dardis agreed, saying the presence of a scoring system would not guarantee fairness.

He said subjective judgments go into the creation of a scoring system. An example, Dardis said, would be determining how much weight to give to experience versus proximity or familiarity with the parish.

Dardis, who has worked with several other parishes in hiring engineers, said Livingston “did more than most” in ensuring a fair selection process.

Ricks said he was thankful the RFQ elicited so many responses and that the process turned out as he had hoped.

Before road work can begin, the council must first formally approve the contract with Burk-Kleinpeter, then provide the firm a written notice to proceed with the examination and cost estimates for overlaying roads on the council’s priority list, Goff said.

Once the estimates come back and the council adjusts the road list as needed to fit its budget, the work will go out for bids, he said.