Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fr. Chuck's Column, Sunday, July 14

Last November at St Austin City Lights people very generously donated about $46,000 in the “paddles up” fund-raising effort for the purpose of constructing a shade structure over a portion of the St. Austin blacktop. I want to tell you what has happened since then.

First a committee of school parents sought basic information on shade structures and then solicited bids for our situation. Forming the committee and seeking the bids took some time. Several different companies were contacted and eventually three bids came in. At that point I joined the committee and we selected the one we wanted on May 15. Of course the cost on this thing came back much greater than we had supposed, more than doubled. Building a structure that not only provides shade but will stand up to winds and the sun involves more than we had originally realized. And the one we wanted, which looks the best and would work best with the traffic flow on the blacktop for pick-up and drop-off of students, came in at $102,000, which was well over our budget. Since this shade structure will also be used for St Austin Parish events, I decided – after consultation with the Finance Council – that the cost would be split 50/50 between St Austin Parish and St. Austin School. And so on June 4, I signed the contract. Our hope was that we would have the shade structure constructed and in place by the beginning of the next school year on Monday, August 19.

What I had not realized is that I do not have authority to sign contracts over $50,000. Only the Bishop can do that. So we then submitted the contract to the Diocese for the Bishop’s signature. The Diocese looked at the contract and required that the vendor carry Builder’s Risk insurance up to $1,000,000 and also be bonded. The vendor we were contracting with did not have this level of insurance, nor was the vender bonded, and to add these two components would add another $5,400 to the contract.

We proposed to the Diocese that we drop the requirement for bonding and so save the parish about $3,800, but that proposal went nowhere. But the Bishop did sign the contract. So we sent the amended contract to the vendor for signature. At this point the vendor got hesitant about taking on this risk and liability and insisted instead that we sign the contract with the manufacturer, a much larger business entity who carries this sort of risk, rather than with him, the local vendor. The contract, so amended, went back to the Diocese again to sign, this time with the manufacturer rather than the vendor. At long last and after multiple trips back and forth the final contract has been signed and approved by all parties for a total of $110,801. My compliments to the committee of school parents chaired by Brian Estes, the Parish Properties Committee, and to our indefatigable Business Administrator Rick Gerber, for staying on this and bringing it to completion. Whew!

In addition to the contract cost there will be a few thousand more for adding electrical outlets and power to the shade structure. If you want to get an idea of the type of thing we are talking about, go to the website of the manufacturer and there are some very pretty pictures. We are getting a “sail” type structure. Go to

So it remains to be seen if the shade structure will be finished in time for the opening of the school year or not. In any case, given the effort and the cost, I hope we get a lot of wonderful use out of it! Everything takes longer to get done that it seems it should.

For months I noticed that on the corner of Lavaca and MLK a stairway to the AT&T Executive Conference Center that had been damaged (perhaps by a car not turning on MLK but going straight up Lavaca and plowing into it?) sat forlornly with police barricades and yellow tape around it. This sight made me very happy. For if the AT&T Executive Conference Center, with all its available resources (i.e. money) and all its business acumen (certainly much greater than ours) was taking so long to get the steps repaired (hardly rocket science) then I did not feel so bad about our taking so long to get the shade structure on the blacktop built. Misery loves company!

God bless!


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