District hires lawyers to review roof


HOUSTON – The Houston School Board has hired two Tupelo lawyers to review their case and handle litigation to get leaks stopped at the School of Science and Technology.

Trustees met in executive session for one hour Friday and then voted to hire attorneys Gary Carnathan and Bill Murphree to gather data and information from the district and its consultants on 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.

Trustee Carol Byrne made the motion to hire both Carnathan and Murphree to evaluate the district’s case against roofing material maker GAF, contractor Copper Top Roofing and project architect Pryor & Morrow. Byrne’s motion was seconded by Trustee Marvin Beard and supported by Trustee Daniel Heeringa and Board President Bart Munlin.

“It appears the roof is not functioning,” Carnathan said following Friday’s executive session. “It’s a new roof and it needs to function.”

Carnathan said they would begin looking at details of the case and “evaluate the school’s situation.” He said additional consultants and experts in construction would only be hired at the board’s direction.

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 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.

Trustees Bart Munlin and Rayburn Parks climbed on and inspected the vo-tech roof in March 2011 to try and find a solution to chronic leaks that have plagued the building.

Munlin, an engineer, and Parks, a well-services businessman, also reviewed a copy of the actual bid specifications that were used to repair the roof in an attempt to determine the scope of the work and if that work had been done.

Munlin said at that time condensation pans on the bottom of air conditioners on the roof have deteriorated and it appeared the contractor and architect had done what they said they would do.

Parks was a little more hesitant and said those condensation plates should have been replaced and should have been part of the scope of work when the architect drew up specifications.

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

In April 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.

Hood said at that time the district has repeatedly tried to avoid litigation and just wants the roof fixed.

Hood recommended Carnathan and Murphree to handle the district’s legal concerns based on their expertise and specialization in this type litigation.

Trustees have met repeatedly in executive session for almost six months 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 could 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.

Carnathan practices with Carnathan & Malski and is also the interim attorney for the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors. Murphree practices with Mitchell, McNutt and Sams.

Trustee Zach Huffman, whose resignation from the board will be effective June 30, was absent from Friday’s meeting. School trustee-elect Thomas Howell was at Friday’s meeting and was invited into executive session by the board.

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