Houston trustees hire architect

LOGO HOUSTON School RAMHOUSTON – A Hattiesburg architect has been hired by the Houston School Board of Trustees to assist the district with issues to fix the leaking roof at the Houston School of Science and Technology.

Trustees hired the firm of Landry & Lewis P.A. To work with the district to assess the current roof, determine what has been done and possible solutions to fix it. The work and services are not to exceed $5,000.

The motion to hire Landry & Lewis was made by Trustee Carol Byrne and seconded by Trustee Bart Munlin. The vote was supported by Trustee Marvin Beard and Board President Daniel Heeringa. Trustee Thomas Howell was absent from last week’s meeting. There was no discussion.

“We have asked them to review what has been done as a third-party,” said Houston Superintendent Dr. Steve Coker said Friday. “This is part of our ongoing litigation over the roof and not plans for us to do anything at this time with the roof.”

Coker said the district is still “trying to get everybody back to the table,” and avoid more litigation.

Coker said the district has been advised not to make changes in the roof and he had no idea when work might be done to stop it from leaking.

Last week’s vote was part of an on-going problem with the Houston School of Science and Technology roof that has continued to leak since the district paid to have it re-roofed in 2010.

The district hired the law firm of Jernigan, Copeland & Anderson, a Ridgeland firm specializing in construction law, in March to provide legal services that could lead to repairs being paid for by the contractor and project designers.

The board voted in March to hire the firm on the recommendation of NewPath Consultant Warren Bowen following a 40-minute executive session.

The need for a new attorney arose after the board discovered previous attorneys Bill Murphree and Gary Carnathan allegedly had a conflict of interest in the district’s suit to get a leaking roof at the Houston School of Science and Technology fixed.

Trustees also approved the payment of $2,293.38 to NewPath for consulting work in March. The board was approached about paying an invoice from NewPath of $21,629.18 at their April 2013 meeting.

These decisions are part of the district’s on-going effort to find out why a roof installed approximately three years ago has not stopped leaks at the School of Science and Technology, formerly known as the Vo-Tech Center.

The district’s legal battle has named roofing material maker GAF, contractor Copper Top Roofing and project architect Pryor & Morrow as potential litigants.

The district contracted with Copper Top in 2010 to fix the roof at a cost of $240,000. The school board has repeatedly contacted architect Roger Pryor and Copper Top since the roof was installed saying they are not satisfied with the work.

Murphree told the school board in December the suit was in arbitration and Murphree’s Tupelo firm has billed the district for his work after he was released earlier this year. The board had repeatedly met in closed session with attorneys to discuss the case.

In August the district budgeted $300,000 for attorney fees for potential litigation to force Pryor & Morrow, CopperTop Roofing and GAF Inc., to repair a leaking roof at the Houston School of Science and Technology. The district has also budgeted $400,000 to repair the roof if litigation fails.

An update of budget figures last week indicated the district now had $200,000 set aside for attorney fees.

Pryor and Copper Top have said the problem is with condensation pans on old air conditioning units and not the roof that was installed.

At a March 2011 meeting Pryor said the type of roof installed does not have a history of failure and he believes it was installed correctly.

The district hired NewPath Strategy Consultants, of Jackson, in June 2012 to develop a plan to assess construction and estimate costs for repairing leaks at the Houston Vocational Building and replacing air conditioners.

In April 2013 the board met with NewPath in executive session and then voted to have Board Attorney Jimmy Hood send a “strongly worded” letter of notice to all parties responsible for the roof on the School of Science and Technology.

Trustees have met repeatedly in executive session for almost a year to talk about how they might go about getting the roof fixed or be reimbursed for work they believe was not done properly.

And the roof continues to leak. Teachers and students were exposed to wet ceiling tiles and puddles in the floor during the last school year.

Houston School Superintendent Dr. Steve Coker told trustees at the June 10 board meeting that who pays to get the roof to stop leaking will influence whether the district pays to fix the roof or repave the driveway around the Houston Middle School and High School. The paving project has been quoted to carry a $125,000 price-tag.

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