Questions arise over city’s generator deal
Kenner — Kenner officials pulled a contract with a Mississippi firm to provide maintenance to the city’s electrical generators on Thursday after one council member requested more time to examine the deal.
The Kenner City Council rescinded a contract approved last month for Taylor Power Systems to provide twice-annual inspections of the city’s 49 generators for $49,900. After rescinding the contract, the board then voted to delay a decision on the deal until later this month while Councilman Kent Denapolis investigates the particulars of the contract.
The council’s decision is just the latest twist in the convoluted consideration of a contract that administration officials initially plugged as a routine bid acceptance. Initially, council members questioned whether the city could have steered the deal towards a local company, and more recently the debate has been about whether Kenner violated state bid law by awarding the deal to Taylor.
At issue is the fact that Taylor is not a licensed electrical contractor in the state, and the Louisiana Contractors’ Licensing Board tends to view contracts involving generators as electrical contracts, according to Doug Traylor, an official with the licensing board. Kenner officials have contended that the deal is simply a “service contract” and that Taylor will not perform any sort of electrical repairs on the devices. They’ve also noted that any electrical repairs would be done by a licensed contractor hired by Taylor or the city and likely would not exceed the $10,000 limit that requires a license.
Traylor told the city this week that as long as Taylor didn’t do any physical work on the generators, or hire another contractor to do the work, there should not be a violation.
However, on Thursday Denapolis said he’d like at least another two weeks to get a history of the contract to see if the city is in danger of violating bid law based on its spending. Denapolis said he wants to make sure the city is not in danger of exceeding the contract limits set by the state since the deal could cost Kenner as much as $100,000.
“I would like, in an abundance of caution, to reconsider this item,” Denapolis said.
Chief Administrative Officer Mike Quigley said that in previous contracts with Taylor, which were not bid, the city spent less than $40,000. However, that figure is at odds with the city’s prior contention that this deal represented a cost savings for Kenner.
Quigley also told the council that two state officials reviewed the contract specifications and an explanation from city officials on Thursday and said the deal was acceptable. He said that the state will send the city a letter verifying that position.
That is an abrupt change of position from earlier this week when a state official notified a private citizen by email that the licensing board was prepared to cite Taylor for bidding on a contract without the proper license. The email, which was provided to The Advocate, said that further action could be taken if the city awarded the contract.
However, most of the council said they are satisfied the city has followed every rule and only agreed with the deferral out of respect for Denapolis. They noted that it’s council protocol to allow any council member extra time to research an issue. Councilman Joe Stagni said he’s ready to move forward with the contract and doesn’t see the need to wait for the state.
“My questions have been answered,” Stagni said.
Councilwoman Maria Defranscesch said this issue has cost the city tons of time and money, and she called the constant debate a “waste.’’ She also mildly chided Denapolis for not doing his research prior to the meeting and instead requesting a deferral. She congratulated the city for saving money by reviewing its contracts.
“I do not believe in wasting city resources over and over again… We need to make sure every penny in this city is spent wisely,” Defranscesch said.