List of possible south BR library sites expected soon

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board is expected to receive a report in April outlining potential sites for the system’s long-awaited south branch library.

The board voted last month to hire Leotta-Evers Consulting LLC to help it find a location, after the system failed to come up with an optimal site on its own, but the $15,000 contract had to be vetted by the Parish Attorney’s Office.

Library Director Spencer Watts said Thursday the contract has been approved and he expects a report from the site selection firm in about 15 days.

“They’ve done a lot of preliminary work already,” he said. “I would expect that they are well on their way now.”

The Library 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.

The south branch library is among several ongoing projects to address the system’s growth.

The new $40 million Main Library at Goodwood opened earlier this year and an official dedication ceremony has been set for April 12.

The library has been operating with temporary parking at nearby lots in Independence Park, but Watts said officials are aiming to have the first phase of parking for the new library “if we’re lucky and we don’t have a whole lot of rain, somewhere around mid-June.”

With work done on the main library, efforts are soon to begin on the renovation of the downtown library at St. Louis Street and North Boulevard.

Watts said officials met with the project’s architects last month to finalize details.

Amid concerns that the project could run over its $19 million budget, Watts said that the architectural firm has agreed to redesign the project at its own expense if necessary.

“They have reassured us and reassured us that everything is going to come in under budget,” Watts said. “They have enough confidence in their figures.”

Several Library Board members on Thursday remained skeptical.

“We just want them to know we are at the top — that’s all the money,” board President Tanya Freeman said.

The Department of Public Works issued a notice to proceed on the construction on March 13.