Livingston Parish Director of Homeland Security Mark Harrell

Livingston Parish Director of Homeland Security Mark Harrell

As part of acquiring grant money from FEMA, each applicant for a particular project must submit a packet with requisite information.

That packet allows a certain group, whomever that may be, to provide a number measure for their ability to perform the project. Those pieces of the puzzle are:

  1. Background and experience of the firm
  2. Personnel/Professional qualifications & Spec. Knowledge
  3. Capacity to accomplish the work in required time
  4. Past performance in Parish contract
  5. Firm's understanding of the project & parish needs
  6. Preference given to disadvantage business enterprise firms

Parish Councilman Garry 'Frog' Talbert brought up concerns with the full body of applications the council was set to view and potentially approve Thursday night. Talbert said he was concerned with the consistency of the grant application scoring process, as well as disappointed that a certain engineering firm did not receive a contract - despite the fact they already work in the area where the project would be enacted.

Talbert cited a B. Janes, an employee of the Livingston Parish Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, as someone who was inconsistent. For an Allen Bayou project, which is in Gravity Drainage District 1, the scoring group awarded it to All South Engineering.

All South won by 1 point, despite Quality Engineering having higher scores in Background and Experience in previous projects for which QES applied. In this particular instance, Janes awarded them 15 points, out of 30.

All South, who had been awarded as low as 15 points in other projects up for vote on Thursday, received a 25 on the Allen Bayou Project.

Chairman of the Gravity Drainage District 1 board said that the process didn't seem "kosher" to him at the meeting Thursday night. Buford Elliot said that he put behind Quality Engineering, as they know the area since they are the engineering firm who does all of Gravity 1's work.

However, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Mark Harrell explained to the council that if they did not award the winning firm, by their scoring system, FEMA might not provide their funding share. Harrell went on to explain that he believed those scores turned out like that because, for that particular project All South may have more prior experience.

Talbert asked that, if they did, why were there so many particular parts of the scoring system specific to the project?

Harrell said they scored how they always have, and by federal requirements.

Talbert asked if the parish could send a letter to All South, declining them because Quality was already doing the engineering work for the area and knew the project well.

Harell added that Quality helped develop the scoring system for the project, as well as the requirements to complete it.

Harrell said that FEMA would probably decline funding, since All South "just barely" won, but that he would "manipulate the scores on Monday if the council asked him to" or "cancel the whole project."

"We don't want that," Talbert said, "we're just looking for alternatives."

Eventually, Councilman R.C. Bubba Harris made the motion to approve the award to All South Engineering under the fear that FEMA would pull funding if the council didn't follow their process. Talbert was only no on that award.

Talbert went on to say that parish ordinances allow the council to appoint a full committee to score and approve grants, or defer that scoring process. Currently, the council defers the scoring of those projects to the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, which is run by Mark Harrell.

Talbert insisted that the next council implement that committee to do the scoring as a group.

(1) comment

CajunJedi

If this isn’t some blatant outright “good ole boy” politics that Livingston Parish is well know for then I don’t know what is! Since when is it appropriate for an elected parish official to attempt to manipulate the fema scoring process for awarding grant money on storm recovery projects in order to divert the award away from the top scoring contractor and toward a contractor of his choosing and right in front of the entire parish council. What am I missing here? Am I completely misunderstanding what happened?

Someone please enlighten me!

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