Consulting firm chosen to help find site for south library in EBR

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board has unanimously agreed to hire Leotta-Evers Consulting LLC to help it find a location for the system’s long-awaited south branch library.

Owner Victor Leotta said his firm will run site evaluations and submit a report with multiple options back to the board within 10 to 15 business days.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure that the library will be as effective as possible,” he said.

The board has spent at least six years trying to move forward on an estimated $6 million new branch to serve the growing south Baton Rouge area. After talks on two properties dissolved last year, the board started the process over of trying to identify a suitable site in the affluent southern part of the parish, where property tends to be less available and more costly.

During a two-hour meeting on a Saturday in December, board members decided to seek outside help from a site selection consulting firm after reaching an impasse on all of the options before them.

Leotta-Evers Consulting LLC was picked Thursday out of four businesses that had submitted proposals. The firm will be paid $15,000 for the work.

Board members expressed some concern over spending money to hire an outside firm but eventually agreed that the contract would be worth the expense if it meant moving the process forward.

“I don’t want to waste money — even a penny — or appear to waste money — even a penny, but this is such a small, small part of the $6 million budget,” board member Chip Boyles said.

The library has been proposed to serve a loosely defined area that stretches from Essen Lane on the east to Stanford Avenue to the west, and from Perkins Road on the north down to the river at its south.

Late last year, Library Board members expressed frustration over the slow-moving process.

In addition to work on the private-sector side, Leotta-Evers Consulting LLC previously has worked with the state Economic Development arm and the East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority to locate properties.

Leotta and his business partner, John Evers, presented to the Library Board several maps outlining their evaluations of existing library facilities and what the new library location will need to meet drive time, resident reach and other accessibility factors.

“You want to make sure you can defend your location decisions based on the data,” Leotta said.

He said the firm will work to build a “suitability model” — factoring in transportation, utility, traffic and a profile of the average library user before submitting potential sites to the board.

“We’re going to set out with the mind-set of trying to figure out what the target looks like here,” he said.

In evaluating the four firms, board members agreed that having extensive data would help build support for the new branch as the process moves forward.

“We all understand that there will be some people that — no matter what site is selected — will never be happy,” board Vice President Jason Jacob said. “There’s only so much we can do as a board.”