The CEO of a Baton Rouge-based turf field supplier claims the Iberia Parish School Board is attempting to squeeze his company out of a bid for the installation of turf fields at New Iberia Senior High, Loreauville High and Westgate High.
Charles Dawson, CEO of Global Synthetics Environmental LLC conducting business as GeoSurfaces, alleges the IPSB is trying to eliminate his company from a competitive bid process on the installation of three turf fields roughly valued at $1 million each.
GeoSurfaces filed a temporary restraining order, preventing the School Board from opening bids for the fields in its Sept. 3 meeting.
After an initial bid process that awarded GeoSurfaces as the low bidder for the Board’s $3 million budget, the project was re-advertised following an injunction filed by CR Construction of Mississippi claiming GeoSurfaces was not a responsive bidder and was incapable of performing the project, according to Dawson.
“After the release of the new specification that eliminated competitive bids, we were forced to file this injunction to not only protect our rights as a Louisiana contractor but to protect the Iberia Parish taxpayers from what we believe are unfair, illegal bid practices that will ultimately cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars more,” said Dawson in a prepared statement to The Daily Iberian.
GeoSurfaces’ initial bid came in at $2.8 million with the second-lowest bid $467,010 higher.
In a petition filed with the 16th Judicial District Court, GeoSurfaces claims the new bid specifications list “FieldTurf USA Inc. as the sole acceptable synthetic turf manufacturer. The plans and specifications further stated that FieldTurf Revolution was the required product.”
The petition also alleges the board is attempting to “spec him out” by having a “closed specification,” or product specified to the exclusion of all other products of apparent equal quality and utility, according to court documents.
IPSB officials say the matter boils down to drainage issues at the schools, in particular NISH and Loreauville.
The School Board’s attorney, Wayne Landry, said specifications were made to meet the school’s drainage needs after heavy rains in South Louisiana.
“This particular design is kind of like a catch basin under the field. It’s sort of a retention. The outflow drainage at Loreauville and NISH … it’s pretty bad,” Landry said in an interview Monday. “The engineer and the designer feel as though they sort of have to do a retention system.”
Perry Segura, architect for the board’s field-turf project, said the drainage system the board is requesting through additional specifications would allow for better drainage at the schools.
During a meeting Monday, Segura exhibited several photos showing a heavy amount of flooding at Loreauville High School and NISH after a heavy rain.
The pictures Segura displayed showed cars tire-deep in water where the potential turf fields would be.
“If you get a heavy rain the outflow drainage is already flooded so the drainage would already start backing up. It’s an effort to maximize drainage without the water backing up on the playing surface,” Landry said.
Iberia Parish Superintendent Dale Henderson said the bid specifications are to anticipate heavy rains over a short period of time.
“Whatever drainage system we use, it has to be effective enough that if we do get a lot of rain, especially a lot of rain in a short period of time, that the water can be moved away,” Henderson said.
Segura said a poor drainage system could be a potential safety issues for players.
A hearing will be held in January to decide the permanent injunction, declaratory judgment and damages.
“We want to have the opportunity to offer our products and services at the very best price to the Iberia Parish School Board. We are asking for nothing more than a fair, competitive and lawful bid process,” Dawson said. “The best outcome is for the school board to bid this project in compliance with Louisiana law. Louisiana public bid law was enacted so that the bid process is fair, open and produces the best price for the taxpayer.”
Henderson said work on new stadiums for NISH and Westgate, which share Lloyd G. Porter Memorial Stadium, will continue as planned with the board opening bids Oct. 15.