Kenner tweaks generator maintenance contract

A seemingly endless debate over a contract for maintenance of Kenner’s electrical generators finally appears over, and city officials say their belief that the contract had been handled properly has been vindicated.

With a few tweaks, the Kenner City Council approved a contract with Taylor Power Systems Inc. to provide annual inspections of the city’s 49 electrical generators this week. The decision comes after the council approved the contract in February and then backed off that approval earlier this month.

Councilman Kent Denapolis had asked the board to defer reapproving Taylor’s two-year contract earlier this month because he said he needed more time to investigate the deal. The Mississippi company was awarded the contract as the low bidder, and it initially included a not-to-exceed amount of $100,000. Taylor was supposed to conduct two inspections of the generators annually to identify any possible mechanical or electrical issues. Denapolis said Thursday that after doing his due diligence, he now feels comfortable with the deal.

“There were some issues with state licensing and I think this clears this up,” Denapolis said of several amendments to the contract he proposed.

That explanation minimizes the kerfuffle the contract caused, with some of Mayor Michael Yenni’s critics lobbing a variety of accusations at his administration about the deal. There were questions about whether Taylor was the true low bidder, why the contract was being awarded to a non-Kenner company and whether Taylor had the proper licenses to even bid on the work. The Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors got involved in the debate, and at one point, it seemed like Kenner might have run afoul of state law.

However, last week, an attorney for the licensing board made it clear to the city that as long as Taylor does not do any electrical work on the generators, the contract would not violate any laws. In a letter, the attorney said the contract appears to be similar to a mechanic servicing a vehicle, which is a contention Chief Administrative Office Mike Quigley has made for weeks.

Denapolis took things a step further in his amendments to the contract, stipulating that any electrical work that exceeds $10,000 must be performed by a licensed electrical contractor, which aligns with state law. Denapolis also reduced the original not-to-exceed amount to $75,000.

Councilman Joe Stagni raised the issue of whether the new cap would be sufficient to cover any expenses that might arise in preparing the generators for hurricanes. Public Works Director Jose Gonzalez said he believes the city is in a good position. Gonzalez also said the city’s new deal with Taylor is an improvement over the previous deal with the company for the same work.

“Three years after the fact, I think we have a good deal as far as cost is concerned,” Gonzalez.

Kenner gadfly Al Morella told the board that given the attention the contract has garnered from the public and media, city officials should be certain that Taylor abides by all aspects state law.

“The people are going to be watching,” Morella said.