Firm: BR High tab grows

Construction continues Wednesday on the renovation and expansion of Baton Rouge Magnet High School. The general contractor, MAPP Construction, is seeking more money to complete construction on time for an August 2012 reopening. Show caption
Construction continues Wednesday on the renovation and expansion of Baton Rouge Magnet High School. The general contractor, MAPP Construction, is seeking more money to complete construction on time for an August 2012 reopening.

MAPP wants more money from board

MAPP Construction, the general contractor handling the renovation and expansion of Baton Rouge Magnet High School, wants the East Baton Rouge Parish school system to pay more to cover its costs in trying to complete construction on the 85-year-old school on time for an August 2012 reopening.

The School Board is scheduled to get an update on the contract dispute at its “committee of the whole” meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Board President Barbara Freiberg said Wednesday that she has had a short discussion with Domoine Rutledge, general counsel for the school system, on the matter, but knows little else.

Freiberg said she has not seen any documents and is looking forward to an update.

She said it will likely occur behind closed doors.

MAPP has not filed a lawsuit, but litigation might emerge if the two sides cannot work out their differences.

In July 2010, MAPP beat out several other bidders and was awarded a $45.9 million contract for the expansion and renovation project on the landmark high school at Government and Eugene streets.

“This matter involves a number of complex issues related to the construction of BRMHS and they are very technical in nature,” Rutledge said in a prepared statement.

In a separate interview, Rutledge said that MAPP has requested several change orders to its construction contract from CSRS/Garrard Program Management, the private partnership that oversees most school construction for the school system.

MAPP and CSRS, however, have not been able to agree on many of the requested change orders, and at least $1 million is in dispute, Rutledge said.

CSRS instead has directed MAPP, under protest, to continue working with the idea that the two sides would work things out later and not interrupt construction, Rutledge said. MAPP instead has formally asked to enter mediation now to resolve these disputes, Rutledge said.

“We are receptive to mediation, but in order for mediation to be effective, we’re going to have to have all the documents (from MAPP) to properly inform the mediation,” he said.

MAPP also argues that it needs to shift to a “compression schedule” to complete the complex project on time, which would give MAPP money to hire more personnel, but has not been persuasive, Rutledge said.

“We think they have more flex in their schedule,” Rutledge said.

MAPP is using the law firm Sexton Hebert and that firm has submitted a public records request seeking documents.

Freiberg said the request, among other things, seeks copies of communications board members have had about this dispute. She said she first heard of the request a few days ago when Rutledge asked that it be placed on the agenda.

Rutledge gave The Advocate a copy of a May 19 letter from Joey Noto, MAPP’s project manager, to CSRS, laying out its objections to being ordered to continue work over its objections on the fabrication and erection of structural steel. Noto noted in the memo that MAPP is tracking closely all its costs to justify its request and wants to enter mediation to work things out.

“MAPP Construction LLC expects to be reimbursed for these costs,” Noto wrote.

MAPP’s President Mike Polito would not comment on the dispute.

“At the appropriate moment that we need to discuss it, we will discuss it,” Polito said.

In his prepared statement, Rutledge expressed hope of a resolution without having to go to court.

“Over the past 10-plus years, we have implemented a construction program with tremendous success that has been virtually litigation free, with most if not all of our projects being delivered on time and within budget,” he said.