The LSU Board of Supervisors has opted not to call a special board meeting that had been tentatively planned for Tuesday to consider moving forward on a lucrative, long-term contract to modernize the energy system on the main Baton Rouge campus.
It’s the second time in a week the board has opted not to take up the deal—a Dec. 22 special board meeting was abruptly canceled—as controversy intensifies over the contract and the two groups competing for it: Toronto-based Enwave Energy and Louisiana Energy Partners, a venture owned in part by businessman Jim Bernhard’s portfolio company Bernhard Energy.
Had the meeting been held, LSU’s staff and consultants were expected to recommend to the board that it award the 30-year contract to Enwave, whose proposal would save LSU $2 million more a year over the life of the contract than LAEP’s—a $60 million difference.
But multiple sources familiar with the situation tell Daily Report that the Bernhard group has mounted a powerful campaign to sway the board and has tried to make the case that hiring a local company is better for local job creation than hiring an out-of-state firm.
LAEP is a joint venture owned by Bernhard Energy, a local company, and Johnson Controls, a multinational corporation with headquarters in Ireland.
Enwave, which has a long-term contract at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, is based in Toronto.
Board members were fielding calls on the matter right up through Christmas Eve, and several were frustrated by a process they say had become too political, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
That frustration turned to exasperation earlier today when LAEP filed a complaint with the Louisiana State Contractors Licensing Board seeking to have Enwave’s proposal thrown out because the firm does not have a Louisiana contractor’s license.
The agency is now investigating the complaint.
Sources familiar with the situation say because of the licensing issue some LSU board members are pushing to throw out both proposals and rebid the contract. Others, however, are arguing that would be unfair to LAEP, which submitted its proposal under the name of a newly created LLC, Tiger Energy Partners.
Tiger Energy Partners does not have a contractor’s license in Louisiana either, though both Johnson Controls and Bernhard Energy do.
Board members would not return calls seeking comment about the reasons for their decision not to meet Tuesday. The board has typically presented a united front on issues, so it might not meet until it has resolved its disputes over the matter behind the scenes.