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Chase Sharkey, owner of Sharkey Mechanical, asks Tangipahoa Parish School Board members on Tuesday why they did not accept the finance committee’s recommendation to use his HVAC preventative maintenance services.

Experience versus cost was at the center of parish school board debate this week.

Tangipahoa Parish School Board members chose not to revisit their decision to approve Morgan’s Mechanical of Amite over Sharkey Mechanical of Greensburg for this year’s preventative HVAC maintenance contract, despite protest from some members.

Board President Tom Tolar said a formal complaint had been made that the company awarded the contract was a different company than the one listed on the agenda to receive it. The switch was made because the full board chose to go with a different company than the one recommended by the finance committee.

Tolar asked the board to reconsider the previous vote and re-vote on it as a way for the board to be open and transparent about the process. Board member Brett Duncan called for a vote to stop Tolar’s suggestion on the grounds that the contract had already been agreed upon.

The contract had been signed by the vendor but not by the superintendent, said Chief Financial Officer Bret Schnadelbach.

Duncan argued that the superintendent’s signature was merely ceremonial.

In general, a contract is enforced when there is a meeting of minds, an offer and acceptance, said attorney Chris Moody.

Board members Sandra Bailey-Simmons, Randy Bush, Rose Dominguez, Janice Richards and Glenn Westmoreland sided with Duncan that it was too late to suggest a re-vote, stopping Tolar’s request from moving forward. Robin Abrams and Jerry Moore agreed with Tolar that it was not too late because the superintendent had not signed the contract yet.

Deciding factorsBefore the vote, Chase Sharkey, owner of Sharkey Mechanical, asked the board why his business was rejected and Morgan was instead put on the agenda and approved.

Duncan’s support of Morgan Mechanical stems from the company’s experience with doing a good job maintaining equipment for the school district, as well as its over 30 years of experience as a company.

“When we’re doing professional services, you factor in all sorts of things; it’s not like you’re just buying a product,” Duncan said. “So for me personally – particularly when it comes to equipment that is being maintained that is worth millions of dollars and if it’s not being maintained properly can cause millions of dollars in damages – experience is very important.”

Starkey Mechanical is a newer company.

“We know Morgan Mechanical and the relationship we’ve had with them, and their level of experience has saved us a tremendous amount of money in the past,” Duncan said. “They have been able to keep equipment running longer than the expected life expectancy. They have found ways to give us expert advice on things like that, so we know that there is real value to us as a system by having someone with a higher level of expertise.”

According to price point calculations for preventive maintenance, Morgan’s Mechanical’s annual service price is an average cost of $104,893. Sharkey Mechnical’s average price is $79,293.

Both companies met the district’s mandatory requirements. The two companies’ total scores from the Request for Proposal were only a 2.85 point difference. The higher the amount of points, the better the companies scored.

According to the RFP, Morgan’s Mechanical received nine more total points for its technical qualifications than Sharkey Mechanical did. Sharkey received almost 12 more total points than Morgan for price. Mechanical and helper regular hourly and overtime hourly rates were each less than a one-point difference.

Tolar argued that the RFP process, the basis for the finance committee’s decision, took the politics out of the selection.

“...when we do something like take a $28,000 hirer bid, not only do we hurt ourselves in the future with competitive bidding, but we just shot ourselves in the foot for getting vendors that want to take the time to do a multi-page RFP for us…,” Tolar said.

He thanked the administration for trying to break up some of these contracts in areas such as architecture, pest control and grass cutting. He said breaking up contracts helps smaller companies be able to bid.

Duncan believes what happened in the past where companies could not compete for bids is not what happened here.

“Winning the process again is not the same thing as saying that you didn’t give other people a chance,” he said. “We did open it up for people to compete, and in fact there were five companies that competed for this work, but when we received their proposals and we analyzed them, in this particular instance, the company that we had this prior history with happened to be, in the board’s view, the best company to continue to have this work.”

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