Bay High School Stadium a Major Fail: Local Alliance for Good Government drops the “I Bomb”

Early this week good government circles were buzzing here after the Bay-Waveland School Board meeting and the disclosures that were made regarding the renovations to Bay High Stadium.  I pass the field several times daily and noticed the dirt heaps with no activity for weeks.  Thanks to an Hancock County Alliance for Good Government email blast and Dwayne Bremer’s account of the meeting for the Seacoast Echo I have a few things to point out and highlight. This is from Dwayne’s story:

Architect Taylor Guild said problems with the field began because of wet conditions and the water table underneath the field……….

“The excavated soil was wet,” Guild said. “It went from bad to worse.”

Guild suggested a change order to the project, which he said will allow the contractor to finish the field in time for Bay High’s first scheduled home game on Aug. 29.

Guild suggested excavating another 12 inches of soil, overlaying that with cloth and sand, and then adding 12 inches of crushed limestone on top before covering it with the artificial turf……

The school board ultimately approved the change order, but asked why soil samples were not taken before construction began.

No soil samples????? If I had a client of mine tell me such a tale my immediate reaction would be something like “Oh My!!!!” “Hmmmm!!!!” After hearing of the disaster first hand here is the word used by the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government:

inability to do something successfully; ineptitude.

I think I agree. Who is minding the store? No one evidently.

The first clue as to the high water table could have easily been discerned with the first shovel of dirt.  I planted a few things about the same time here in Bay St Louis not more than a half mile from the field and I knew from the first shovel full of sandy soil that we have us one heck of a water table over here in the Bay.  Then again the gang could have paid a professional to sample to heck outta the field for under $1,000 but now the bill will approach 6 figures for a fix that Lana Noonan of the Alliance for Good Government indicates to Slabbed may not even work per the ensuing discussion at the school board meeting.

The new stands were needed as the old ones were very outdated.  That said I question the expense of installing artificial turf at a high school football stadium. Yes, I know it is all the rage in south Mississippi High School Football circles but it is also expensive.  I remember the field at Bay High being in good shape for the MSHSAA’s South State soccer championship game late last winter. I sense we have some keeping up with the Jones at play here which is easy to do when you get to spend other people’s money.  Maybe I’m just a hopeless natural grass purist.

In any event I think it is clear from the email blast that Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government is fired up over the disaster.  A little public outrage is good for the body politic to boot.  Following is the text of the email blast:

Once again, the kids get to suffer for what is in my mind, total incompetence on the part of the Bay-Waveland School District Administration.

The District contracted with Eley Guild Hardy Architectural Firm to design and oversee the installation of artificial turf for the Bay High Football Field. Here we are with the first home game scheduled for August 25, and the entire field has been bulldozed, and work has stopped on the project because no soil testing was done prior to beginning installation. You don’t even want to know what these architects have been and are still being paid.

At last night’s School Board meeting, it was revealed that work had stopped on this project on June 17, and no one informed the Administration or Board until July 7. That is 20 days. What was our Project Manager, Brad Barlow, doing with his time? Granted, Eley Guild Hardy was hired to manage all this, but maybe Superintendent Rebecca Ladner and Project Manager Brad Barlow could have ridden by occasionally to check on the project knowing that the beginning of school was imminent. We are supposed to believe all this. I am now being told this morning by a parent who spoke to Superintendent Ladner about this project on June 21, that she knew it then. In the era of electronic communication, she never thought to email the Board Members and inform them that work had stopped?

The price tag for this project is now at $94,940.00. Now the soil testing begins, and the laying of limestone, sand and labor, all in a letter read aloud last night by Board member Mike Benvenutti, who said the last paragraph was troublesome since the engineer who wrote the letter said in closing that he couldn’t guarantee the work would hold up. One retiree in this field of work told me this morning you can add another $80,000 to the job now just for the limestone depending on how deep they have to lay it.

While all of this is important and represents a rip off of the taxpayers, the loss to the kids in football,soccer, and band is the most offensive. Did our seniors on the football,soccer, and band play their last home games last year?

One administrator, Assistant Superintendent Rusty Dempsey, got upset with me for asking questions. It is no secret that he could probably care less about this since his employment here for over 5 years, he hasn’t shown any interest in this community except for a paycheck. He lives in New Orleans and drives over here everyday in a car that I presume has a Louisiana tag. Add to him 5 more administrators who live out of district.

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, this same architectural firm has the entire parking lot at the high school dug up and now there has to be a plan devised to get the students and teachers in the building. You guessed–no soil testing.

Now the School Board is holding some feet to the fire which at this juncture will no doubt result in a hurry up job that will cost all of us even more down the road!!!

Who do we run off first–the architects, the administration, who?

There is only one explanation for and definition of the foregoing–INCOMPETENCE, and at a VERY HIGH PRICE!!$$$$$$$

Lana Noonan
Chairman, Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

In other news, despite the school board election in Waveland being 10 or so months away, Slabbed has been told that School Board President Sherry Ponder has drawn an opponent. I hope to have more on that topic down the line. Stay tuned.

12 thoughts on “Bay High School Stadium a Major Fail: Local Alliance for Good Government drops the “I Bomb””

  1. Sherry Ponder has an opponent? Sherry who? She wasn’t at the meeting. When WLOX announced at their 6:00pm broadcast last Wednesday that they were covering the story later at 10:00pm and she would be interviewed, she wasn’t on. The taxpayers that support this school district who live in Waveland need competent representation. Maybe this is their chance. It can’t get worse.

  2. So what’s new on the part of The Superintendant and Board President.
    This is the same “dynamic duo” that spent the taxpayers money on building plans when they knew all along they were purchasing the “Bay Tech” building.
    Their leadership cost the taxpayers additional dollars because they did not negotiate the Purchase Price of the new building. the appraiser gave them a price, and the advice of their attorney, who is also best friends with one of the sellers, they gave the sellers a $250,000 profit for 60 days of ownership.
    New leadership is definitely needed on the Board.
    Let’s all go out and support a person who will have the best interest of the children and manage the budget.
    Wonder if Ladner, Ponder & Filingame all went to the same accounting classes. There definitely is something viral in the bay with responsible spending with our taxpayers dollars??

  3. Bay St. Louis Taxpayer,
    As far as Fillingame, I don’t see any indication that he has the brains to make a profit off of anything with his business history. Now we know he can’t even manage public funds with a Council watching him. He and Ponder are drunk on power, but I think they are going to sober up pretty soon, but not without a well deserved hangover.
    On the messed up football field and bleachers, the thing that puzzles me is this: This was supposed to be a big improvement, an exciting project for the school district, and it laid stagnant for 20 consecutive days with no one working on it. In the construction business that is a LOT of time (consecutive) days to lose on a project. Did none of them ( Board, Superintendent, Project Manager) even have enough interest or enthusiasm to ride by a couple of times a week to check on it or just simply to watch the process? What a bunch of do nothings handling millions of public dollars. They are out of excuses on this one. This one got found out because it just wouldn’t fit under Sherry Ponder’s and Rebecca Ladner’s rug they sweep all their mistakes under. This is a biggy.
    By the way, someone told me yesterday, that Hancock School District did artificial turf 3 years ago, and haven’t had a winning season since. I don’t think it is holding up too good either. This came from a Hancock School District Taxpayer.

  4. Doug,

    Malpractice by the designer of record seems to be a topic that needs to be explored. Even if they’d like to put in a turf field, the subsurface work as well and crushed stone base would need to be contained so that it doesn’t slip into the same nothingness that they are dealing with now……. sad stuff as the kids are the ones suffering now, just weeks before their season.

    1. Malpractice is certainly something I would explore. I would also explore the internal processes that resulted in the crafting of the bids and specs for the job. To me that is when soil sampling should have been done.

      Perhaps soil sampling wasn’t done because the district took a damn the torpedoes approach to the projects. Perhaps the architects were asleep at the switch. Either way, when this type of major SNAFU happens someone typically gets fired.

      You gotta ask the right questions to figure things out. Based upon what I have seen outta the BWSD Board, sweeping the disaster under the rug would be their first instinct.

  5. Has any of this been published in the Echo? Maybe the public should know.
    Oh wait…. Ms Ponders husband publishes that paper.
    She can not receive bad publicity in an election year.
    Haddanuff you need to get the word out…
    This poor city and school district is so doomed by the ones who run it.

  6. I predict the firing will be Brad Barlow, the District’s Project Manager. He’d better be wearing his hard hat at all times, ’cause Sherry and Becky are gonna have him by the neck and legs throwing him under the bus any day now. And, while I don’t think he is the most competent person in this equation, in his defense, he is a trained dietician who runs the cafeterias in the district, and they saddled him with being project manager in addition with no experience in the field of construction. You have to ration your frustration with these people but when it comes to the kids, it’s hard. If the Board had any “you know whats” they can Ladner. When this kind of money gets wasted, you have to start at the top.
    She probably knows too much on Sherry for that to ever happen, and besides Benvenutti, the rest of them are usually napping. Williams is upset over this because the football field is named after his son, for what reason I don’t know. What has he ever done for the distrct?
    The weather isn’t looking that good for the next 10 days either. Guess they’ll have to stew in their own juice for a while.

    1. I’ve seen SPED directors wear multiple hats such as being the Federal Program director but have never heard of a Food Service Director wearing any other hat besides Food Service. Typically running the cafeterias along with the National School Breakfast and Lunch Programs along with Summer Feeding program is plenty enough to keep a director and administrative assistant very busy.

      I could name a couple of school districts that have discovered employing a full time professional facilities manager is money very well spent.

  7. It could be money well spent to hire a facilities manager, I agree. But, from what I am hearing, Barlow got a raise to handle all of these things, some of which, we now see, he is not qualified to do, and the Superintendent is definitely not qualified considering the answer she gave the Board about why the job stopped for 20 consecutive days. She said that she couln’t say anything because she had not heard formally from the architect. Someone needs to tell her she does not work for the architect, he works for her. I wonder how she would react to any other employee in the district (contrat or other) who just didn’t show up for 20 consecutive days.
    She is part of the problem, definitely not part of the solution.

    1. Several years back I was hired to help a school district get its fixed asset list into shape and that list included all of the buildings owned by the particular school district.

      At that time they had an employee that wore many hats doing the facilities job. After literally spending the better part of two weeks going from school to school verifying inventories, I quickly learned that particular employee absolutely knew they were not doing justice to the job and that did not include the person’s responsibilities with respect to construction projects. There are only so many hours in the workday.

      Counting the new Central Office BWSD has 5 campuses, though 3 are essentially part of one very large complex. I suspect there is some sort of structural type of problem going on at any one time pretty much all the time. Recent examples in the media would include the drainage problems at the Old Bay Tech Building construction site.

      Lots of times 16th Section / Transportation / Facilities are combined into a single administrative position. BWSD contracts its buses and sight unseen I doubt they have much in the way of 16th section lands, if any. Combining Facilities and Food Service still strikes me as unusual though.

  8. Mount Stadium still sit there untouched. I guess Dr. Ladner is still waiting for the architect to call her with his latest instructions since she apparently now works for him and not the taxpayers.

  9. Where is the Boards attorney advising them on this situation. ??
    The same attorney that advised them to pay appraised price on a building that his “friend” paid $255,000 less 2 months before selling to BWSD.
    What is your advice on this Mr. Artigues ?

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