Louisiana College responds to paper's story on Aramark study

By Kelly Boggs, Editor

PINEVILLE – The Town Talk, the daily newspaper of Alexandria, La., reported Feb. 20 on portions of a draft document that is part of a study being assembled by Louisiana College to assess the status of its infrastructure.

According to The Town Talk, the draft document produced by Aramark Higher Educationindicates the LC infrastructure has some significant needs.

 “One portion of a project, commissioned by Louisiana College in 2010 to study the status of its infrastructure, was intercepted and stolen from the college,” said Tim Johnson, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at LC. “Evidently working with the person or persons who stole the ‘in process’ study, The Town Talk ran an article in an apparent effort to damage the college,” Johnson added. 

“The first time I saw some of the specific pieces of the report were on the front page of The Town Talk. The attack on the college was unbelievable, especially using unconfirmed and stolen information.” Joe Aguillard, president of LC, said. “At this point, there is probably nothing that The Town Talk can do to make us think any less of them.”

Aguillard added, “There is a great spiritual battle going on between the College and the liberal media and we will fight it on the knees of Baptists across our state and nation. They seem to have declared ‘war’ on Louisiana College, and we’re not sure why.”

Aguillard continued, “I’m not sure exactly how The Town Talk came to have possession of the study. We didn’t release it or authorize its use because it was very preliminary and is still in its draft stages.” Aguillard added, “To say the release of the study was premature would be an understatement. We are considering legal action, especially since this is the second time they [The Town Talk] have reported on stolen property.” 

“In the interim, an independent commission has been established to provide the president and Board of Trustees with a thorough report regarding the persons and entities involved in the theft, the promulgation of the document with Gannett Enterprises [The Town Talk] and other media entities, use of information to intentionally damage the College with its accrediting bodies, and potential recommendations coming out of the findings. The commission will be headed by LC’s legal counsel,” said Marc Taylor, chairman of the LC Board of Trustees.  

“We look forward to sharing news about Louisiana College at the appropriate time,” Aguillard told The Town Talk in response to the newspaper’s report on the study. “When we have a plan for addressing our infrastructure needs, we will make it known, but it won’t be based on a stolen interpretation by the liberal media,” Aguillard said.

“We actually commissioned two studies months ago, one by Aramark and another by the firm of Baron, Heinburg and Brocato.” Aguillard said. “The two studies are to be synthesized into one to give us a precise picture of our infrastructure needs.” Aguillard added. “Neither study is complete, but when they are, common strategic goals along with plans to phase in solutions will be developed as part of the College’s larger strategic plan.”

According to The Town Talk, the draft study indicates that multiple millions of dollars are needed to be spent in order to meet pressing “deferred maintenance, and planned maintenance, modernization and upgrades.”

“The Town Talk article inaccurately labeled LC buildings as being out of code. All of our buildings are within code.  All buildings are inspected regularly by the Fire Marshall’s office, remain in code, and no life is in danger due to neglect,” Johnson said.  “While the College will be addressing needs, they are nothing of the magnitude described in the article that was based on stolen unfinished documents.”  

The purpose of commissioning the studies, according to Aguillard, was to assess the college’s needs in order to formulate a comprehensive and systematic plan to address them. “We knew we had infrastructure needs. The purpose of the studies was to determine the extent of problem areas with the intent of long-range plans and objectives over the next 10-15 years,” Aguillard said.  “We are anxious to receive the finished reports.” 

The Baptist Message contacted several building contractors seeking comment about the conditions of LC’s infrastructure as reported on by The Town Talk. None were willing to be identified. Additionally, no one was willing to render an opinion. Each stated that it would be speculation to comment on the condition of the buildings without actually inspecting the structures.

However, the contractors agreed that if the millions of dollars mentioned in The Town Talk are accurate, the current condition of the LC infrastructure did not happen overnight. “Years, perhaps decades, of neglect would be responsible for those types of repairs,” said one contractor. 

“You can’t immediately fix decades of put-off maintenance and repair,” said Aguillard. “While the facilities are in good shape, we just want them to be brought into better shape. Our students deserve the best.”

While LC will be finalizing a strategic plan to address infrastructure needs, Aguillard agreed that raising money for the needed repairs and upgrades will not be a simple task.  “Most anyone in fund raising will tell you that people are excited about giving to new endeavors and projects; people are not quite as enthusiastic about giving to maintenance issues and repairs.”

Even so, Aguillard said LC is committed to do everything it can to address the infrastructure needs. “We are going to pray and make the needs known. We trust that God will provide and we will continue to look to Jesus for all things and not be distracted by these attacks,” the LC president said.