Board seeks remedies after IHMS football field damaged
PHOTO: Independence-area board member and IHS alum Robin Abrams grills Chief Financial Officer Bret Schnadelbach on the details of a contract between the district and GeoSport lighting systems to provide LED lighting at IHMS football field. The board tabled a request to grant a certificate of substantial completion on the lighting project as district officials work to remedy damages at the football field that has forced the Tigers to play two home games on another team's turf.
AMITE---While their ire was evident, Tangipahoa Parish School Board members remained composed Tuesday night as they crafted a delaying tactic to declare substantial completion on a lighting project at Independence High Magnet School that has left the football field unusable for the foreseeable future.
On a motion by Glenn Westmoreland and a second by Robin Abrams, the board unanimously chose to table the request to approve a certificate of substantial completion for the IHMS football field lighting project by GeoSport Lighting Systems until their Oct. 15 meeting.
The nearly $300,000 lighting project was completed in late September; however, the Board is reticent to approve the request since the football field was deemed unacceptable for use last Friday night by officials from the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. The LHSAA move forced IHMS to borrow Loranger’s field to play a delayed game last Friday night, and the Tigers will be forced to play their Homecoming game at Hammond High Magnet this Thursday because the field is still unacceptable for regulation play, officials said Tuesday.
Independence Fire Chief John Polito, who serves on the Indy Rec Board and is a Tiger alum himself, said the team was “defeated” Friday by being forced to play a “home” game on another team’s turf.
Polito told the Board that he is leery of the situation between the contractor and the district, adding that the district should not put their faith in a list of outstanding items the contractor must complete before being paid.
“Watch the punch list,” Polito told the board in public input before their vote Tuesday. He said that he’s seen contractors walk away from punch list items, knowing that they can make up the money on other jobs rather than trying to fine tune a “completed” project.
Officials said they are looking at the project carefully, noting that there are ruts in the field in addition to sand on the playing surface. Board member Brett Duncan, an attorney by profession, said the board is reviewing the contract and “looking into any and all remedies” related to the damage at the IHMS field. Those damages include loss of revenue from two home games that have been moved to other venues, as well as repairs the board will have to authorize in order to get the field back in working condition.
To that end, the district is contracting with a professional to get the turf “hopefully better than it’s ever been,” district CFO Bret Schandelbach said Tuesday night.
Abrams, a Tiger alumna who represents the Independence area in her board district, asked Schnadelbach to review the timeline of this project, which began before the current board was seated. He said that there was a four month window between the time the bids were approved in December 2018 and the point when the concrete light poles were ordered in April 2019, a window that board members said could have been utilized better to have this job underway and completed well before the 2019 football season arrived. Schnadelbach said there were some weather-related delays; however, board members said the real delay was created when the contractor hit water while digging holes for three of the four lighting poles.
That delay, coupled with about 20 days that the project was actually over and beyond deadline, could open the door for some liquidated damages at a cost of $175 per day, school officials said.
Board member Randy Bush said the whole situation is “embarrassing to our school system and to the people of Independence.”
“I’m sorry it has happened,” Bush said.
The move to table pushes the request back to the Board’s Oct. 15 meeting. Abrams said she hopes that by that time, the Tigers will have clearance to use their field for the Oct. 25 Indy/Amite game, which is one of only two potential games the team will be able to play at home for the remainder of this regular season.