Turf issue still delaying process

Questions about the future of the installation of artificial turf fields at three public high schools for the Iberia Parish School Board still linger more than a month after the CEO of a Baton Rouge- based turf field supplier filed an injunction against the district.

Global Synthetics Environmental LLC, conducting business as GeoSurfaces, CEO Charles Dawson alleges the IPSB is trying to eliminate his company from Louisiana competitive bid process on the installation of turf fields at Westgate, Loreuaville and New Iberia High School roughly valued at $1 million each.

In a petition filed with the 16th Judicial District Court, Dawson claimed after the field turf project was re-advertised 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.”

Board attorney Wayne Landry said issues over bid specifications is not uncommon in the field turf industry.

“It’s not an unusual concept and it’s not an unusual thing. I’m sure the specs Mr. Dawson has would be different from field turf specs like Hellas (construction Inc.; synthetic turf provider),” Landry said.

Landry alluded to the fact that when bids were first available for the project CR Construction of Mississippi claimed GeoSurfaces was not a responsive bidder and was incapable of performing the project because Geo did not meet the specs, proving how “cut-throat” the industry is, according to Landry.

School district officials said the issue is over the drainage system needed for the three schools, particularly at NISH and Loreuaville after heavy rains.

GeoSurfaces has had issues with a school district in the past. 

In 2010, Johnstown High School in Ohio had an estimated cost of $300,000 to repair damage made to its turf due to sinkholes found underneath the surface caused by a waterway below the ground that began seeping to the surface, per reports.

A Google search of pending or past litigation involving GeoSurfaces turned up no results as well as a search in electronic public court document records.

“By its own admission, (GeoSurfaces) is a baby in this industry,” Landry said. “Compare that to these other companies that have been around for awhile. It’s an industry that began in the early ’60s to late ’70s and obviously I’m sure there has been a lot of litigation going back and forth.”

Danny Hebert, a consultant hired by the school district to provide drainage design, said he would not comment on specifics regarding GeoSurfaces and the IPSB.

Hebert, however, did give a statement generally speaking regarding his decade-plus years of experience in the business.

“A lot of school systems have been stuck with an inferior product. It’s a highly competitive field. My job is to provide the owners with options … different turf companies have to stand by their product,” Hebert, who’s firm is based in Luling, said.

FieldTurf, a Tarkett sports company, also has had litigation issues in previous years. According to the company’s website, FieldTurf Revolution “offers the best synthetic turf system with unparalleled player safety and turf drainage rates.”

In May 2013 in federal district court in Rome, Ga., FieldTurf officials stated in the past several years 167 of the company’s turfs have failed prematurely.

“FieldTurf has produced some evidence that 167 of its fields have failed due to the Evolution fiber’s performance … FieldTurf’s damages expert opines that failures resulting from the Evolution fiber will amount to at least $21.3 million,” according to court documents.

Calls made to FieldTurf over the span of three days were not returned.

“There’s many turf field manufacturers. Tarkett has been in business for a long time. They’re a pretty big company,” Landry said. “It seems like this is an industry that has a lot of trial and error.”

Perry Segura, IPSB architect, declined to comment on the matter.

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