Houston trustees meet with lawyers, again

LOGO HOUSTON School RAMHOUSTON – The Houston School Board of Trustees held a two-hour executive session and met with attorneys, before coming back out in public and saying it was taking no action.

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

On a motion by Trustee Carol Byrne the board entered executive session to discuss possible litigation to sue roofers, architects and the roofing material maker who put a roof on the Houston vo-tech building almost three years ago.

The board did say it planned to meet Aug. 20 to discuss the issue further.

“We are asking for more information from the district,” said Board President Daniel Heeringa.

When asked about how soon the roof at the School of Science and Technology might be fixed, Heeringa said that is one of the questions the board would like answered.

Trustees voted in May to allow architect Landry & Lewis up to $5,000 to assess the current roof and determine what has been done and possible solution to the leaking roof.

Superintendent Steve Coker said the district has been advised not to make changes in the roof and he had no idea when work might start 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 voted 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.

“If the board so directs, the next step would be to file a complaint with the court in Chickasaw County,” said attorney Arthur Jernigan. “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 the Jernigan 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

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.

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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