A courtin’ we might go

Monday’s meeting of our parish school board has set the stage for what might be a long-running stage play starring both school and elected officials, builders (of sorts) and persons in long black robes.

During its finance committee meeting, members of the board tossed around the whys and why nots for handing contractor ELA Group an additional near-one million bucks to help complete a multi-purpose building at Minden High. That project, by the way, has already topped roughly ten and a half million counting the original bid ((9.9 mil) plus nearly $700,000 in change orders. That’s a buncha change.

ELA’s Ed Angel Sr. and Jr. based their plea for the additional money on two basic problems: material prices went through the roof and often changed while goods were in transit, and water under the construction was a’plenty and caused “unforeseen” difficulties. A project that was already running behind schedule is now, according to officials, about a year behind. 

A friend tells your obedient observer that one question needing an answer is whether or not liquidated damages are now in play. Those, you surely know, are the dollar penalties assessed for each day a project runs past contractual completion date. It’s our understanding that ELA has requested extensions. Whether those (or a substantial amount of change order dollars) have been granted hasn’t been discussed. 

Following the finance meeting, the board voted unanimously to tell ELA there would be no additional money. During discussion on the motion to deny, we learned the board voted no under a potential threat of an unfinished building remaining so.

We heard Superintendent Johnny Rowland had received an email from ELA declaring failure to receive more money might lead to the project being “discontinued” and cause subcontractors to walk away. One board member called the email a threat; Rowland considered it an ultimatum.

We who occupy the back table at the coffee shop call it an invitation to court. Folks who study history say Angel Sr. is no stranger to litigation if he doesn’t get what he wants and we should expect some sort of legal action. Hopefully, the school board doesn’t blink.

Big decisions often carry big consequences, but when a line’s drawn one can either stop short or keep moving. The threat of standing before a judge isn’t the issue; it’s whether or not taxpayers who said yes to a bond obligation have to pony up more dollars to be gulped down a sinkhole of change orders.