Consultant lists 15 possible sites for new south BR library branch

A consulting firm submitted 15 possible locations for a new South Baton Rouge branch library at a Library Board of Control meeting on Thursday.

However, Library Director Spencer Watts says library officials are still two to four months away from being able to narrow down the best location from the list. And only after that point will the acquisition process begin.

The Library Board had been working for several years with developer Tommy Spinosa on building a new South branch library in his proposed Rouzan development.

Spinosa donated land for the library, but after numerous stalls in the process, the board opted to seek a different site in the southern part of the parish, where property tends to be less available and more costly.

In March, the board hired Leotta-Evers Consulting LLC, for $15,000, to help it find a location after failing to come up with their own.

The firm presented possible sites, almost all of which are currently undeveloped land, in southwest East Baton Rouge.

All but four of the proposed sites are within 2 miles of each other located south of Burbank Drive and north of Nicholson Drive, mostly along Lee Drive and Ben Hur Road.

The firm narrowed down its list to what it considers the top five lots: the corner of Nicholson and Ben Hur, the corner of Ben Hur and Burbank and three sites near the corner of Lee and Burbank.

However, Watts, and some board members, said they would likely be considering sites outside the five consulting firm listed as its top recommendations.

The board voted Thursday to hire an engineering firm to help narrow the list of 15 possible sites to the top three to five choices, taking into consideration such issues such as environmental and wetland impacts.

Watts said a contract for what he describes as an inexpensive contract with the engineering firm should be ready for approval by the next board meeting.

There were no estimated costs for the land parcels in the consulting firm’s report. Those costs will be gathered in the coming phases of the site search.

Watts said library administrators are still hopeful they will be able to stay close to the $6 million budget, but noted there was no cost to acquire land when that budget was initially set for the project.

The budget accounts for about $330,000 for land acquisition, but Watts said he expects that land prices may have escalated since that figure was set.