With bid decision made, work to begin soon on Central ninth grade academy

A Baton Rouge construction firm has lost a legal challenge to prevent a competitor from signing a contract to build a ninth-grade academy at Central High School after an arbitrator Friday ruled in favor of a rival firm.

On Tuesday, Buquet & LeBlanc Inc. of Baton Rouge signed the contract, which had been held up for six weeks.

Central Superintendent Michael Faulk said work should start soon.

“They’re ready to go. We’re going to set up a meeting and do the preliminaries. It will probably be a couple of weeks,” Faulk said.

Cangelosi Ward filed suit April 23 against the Central School Board, alleging the board wrongly awarded the job on April 14 to Buquet & LeBlanc despite the firm’s failure to submit an Affidavit of Non-Discriminatory Employment attesting that the company is an equal opportunity employer.

On May 15, both sides agreed to enter into binding arbitration. Attorneys met Thursday with arbitrator Allen Graves. On Friday, Graves ruled for Buquet & LeBlanc and against Cangelosi Ward.

“Despite delays, Buquet & LeBlanc is eager to move forward with the building and is committed to the successful and on-time completion of another project for the Central Community school system,” Buquet & LeBlanc said in a statement.

Ted Laperouse, an attorney with Taylor Porter Brooks & Phillips, representing Cangelosi Ward, said: “We believe that the arbitrator clearly made the wrong decision, but at this time we don’t plan to take any action.”

Laperouse said they agreed to binding arbitration in order not to delay construction of the ninth-grade academy.

Buquet & LeBlanc’s bid of $5.25 million, $22,000 less than Cangelosi Ward, was the lowest of seven bids.

Initially, Phil Rutter, of PBK Architects, urged eliminating Buquet & LeBlanc’s bid from consideration because it failed to supply a required document, the affidavit of non-discriminatory employment.

Rutter recommended awarding the job to the next lowest bid, submitted by Cangelosi Ward. Faulk was planning to go along with that recommendation.

But at the April 14 meeting, attorneys with Buquet & LeBlanc and Ken Sills, Central’s attorney, determined the missing document is not necessary under state law and therefore need not bar the awarding of the contract to Buquet & LeBlanc.

The work on the two-story addition to the high school, at 10200 E. Brookside Drive, is set to conclude in June 2015 in time for the start of the 2015-16 school year.

Central High School already has a freshman academy. The new ninth grade academy building is meant to free up space for the upper grades and provide the ninth graders a school-within-a-school setting.