Roof concerns handed to lawyers, again

LOGO HOUSTON School RAMHOUSTON – Houston school trustees directed attorneys last week to once again press their case that the roof at the Houston School of Science and Technology leaks even after the district paid $240,000 in 2011 to have it fixed.

Trustees met in executive session with Board Attorney Jimmy Hood for more than an hour before making their decision to turn their case over to the law firm of Jernigan, Copeland & Anderson, a Ridgeland firm specializing in construction law.

“We want to move forward with this,” said School Board President Daniel Herringa. “We expect they will contact the parties involved and work through arbitration.”

The need for new lawyers arose after the board discovered previous attorneys Bill Murphree and Gary Carnathan, who had been retained by the district, allegedly had a conflict of interest in the district’s suit to get the roof at the Houston School of Science and Technology, also known as the vo-tech, fixed.

And the roof at the Houston School of Science and Technology continues to leak.

Heeringa did say the district has been told not to patch or repair the roof since litigation is pending.

Trustees voted in May to allow architect Landry & Lewis up to $5,000 to assess the current roof and

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

“If the board so directs, the next step would be to file a complaint with the court in Chickasaw County,” attorney Arthur Jernigan said in August. “This would not be a jury case and we would ask for relief on behalf of the school district from a judge.”

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

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 effort to find out why a roof installed approximately three years ago still leaks.

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.

Pryor and Copper Top have repeatedly said the roof was installed correctly. They contend the leaks originate in air conditioning units on the roof.

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.

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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