EBR library board set to decide fate of Rouzan branch

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG    Rouzan site work. Monday May 21, 2012, in Baton Rouge, La.
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG Rouzan site work. Monday May 21, 2012, in Baton Rouge, La.

The board that oversees the East Baton Rouge’s library system will vote Thursday on whether to pull out of the long-delayed Rouzan branch library project.

Last week, developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa submitted documents to the library board that he says show he has fulfilled his obligation under the terms of his agreement with the library board.

The library board’s counsel, Assistant Parish Attorney Leo D’Aubin said Wednesday that he was “still working through” Spinosa’s submissions.

“It’s not a settled thing at this point,” D’Aubin said, adding that his office is still getting additional information.

Most library board members contacted Wednesday said they would await D’Aubin’s opinion before deciding how to vote.

“I am going to wait to see what information develops,” said Stanford O. Bardwell Jr. “It kind of depends on the advice we get from DPW and the attorney,” he said, referring to the Department of Public Works.

Jason Jacob agreed.

“We need to look at the documents submitted by Tommy to see if what he has submitted is going to be sufficient,” he said.

Jacob admitted that he was not optimistic.

“It’s just a track record and that’s all I have to go on,” he said. “I may come out of that meeting tomorrow feeling different.”

Fellow board member Tanya Freeman said the board was just being cautious.

“We want to be smart about what we are doing,” she said. “We want to make sure once we get started, we don’t have any hiccups.”

The key issue is a revision the library board insisted be added to the agreement between the two parties.

The revision, added in November, stipulated that Spinosa post a bond guaranteeing the completion of certain infrastructure improvements
connected to the donated library plot in the Rouzan development.

Board members said at the time that the revision was needed to provide a definite timeline to get the project going.

If Spinosa were unable to post a bond or complete the streets, sidewalks and a parking lot at the site, the city-parish would then have the opportunity to withdraw from the project, according to the revision.

“It provides some clarity and a finite endgame,” board member Travis Woodard, now the president, said at the time.

In an interview last week, Spinosa insisted that no bond was necessary. He pointed to the amended agreement, which reads that Spinosa’s company, 2590, is required to post “a bond for the completion of infrastructure necessary to obtain a permit for the construction of the Library.”

Spinosa underlined the word “necessary” and said all the infrastructure necessary for permitting was in place.

Included in the documents he submitted to the board, however, was a $209,000 performance bond, which he said ensures that the contractor will complete work on the infrastructure.

Spinosa said he secured the bond to show “good faith” with the library board.

Spinosa also pointed to a letter from Shannon Dupont in DPW’s subdivision engineering office.

“Please note the Unified Development Code does not require a surety bond for this project, as the tract for the library currently has the required street frontage and sanitary sewer service built to the property,” the letter reads. “The public infrastructure improvements can be simultaneously constructed with the library, without a bond being posted.”

All that remains is for the library to begin building its building, Spinosa said.

Even if no agreement is reached, the library board could offer Spinosa a 30-day extension, something Woodard said he would consider.

“My preference would be to make a decision one way or another,” he said. “But if the circumstances that necessitate an extension are there, I could support it.”

If the board decides to withdraw from the cooperative endeavor agreement, it would be back to square one, Bardwell said.

“The options are we shut it down and start from scratch, and it will be a much longer process,” he said.