New deal ‘provides some clarity and a finite endgame’
Frustrated by long delays in the Rouzan branch library project, East Baton Rouge Library Board of Control members heard Thursday of a revised deal with developer Tommy Spinosa that sets Feb. 15 as a deadline for measurable progress in building required infrastructure at the site.
The deal, an amendment to the 2010 cooperative endeavor agreement between Spinosa’s company, 2590 Associates LLC and the city-parish, says Spinosa must have either installed or posted a bond ensuring the construction of streets, sidewalks and a parking lot at the Perkins Road site.
If there is no bond, then the Library Board would have the option of withdrawing from the project altogether.
Spinosa has signed the amendment, which will now be presented by the Parish Attorney’s Office to Mayor-President Kip Holden for final approval. The move required no action by the Library Board, but board member Travis Woodard said he wanted the amendment presented to the full board and discussed before it went to the mayor.
Woodard, who has been one of the driving forces in negotiating the new provisions with 2590 Associates, had said last month that he was “extremely frustrated” with the pace of the project. He said Thursday that the amendment was a good first step.
“It provides some clarity and a finite endgame within a reasonably short time frame,” Woodard said. “It’s going to require positive action on the part of the developer.”
In the amendment, Spinosa will have to construct, or have posted a bond to construct, the three elements of infrastructure. Other parts, such as sewer and utilities, are served by a strip of land owned by the library that stretches to Perkins Road, Woodard said.
The agreement also has several other provisions that ensure that the property is properly defined, including that a porch and stairway will be constructed at the front of the library and will be available for public and private events. It also provides for the protection of trees on the tract.
Spinosa, who attended the meeting, said the agreement also served to assure him that the Library Board was serious about the project.
“They have to put up the library if I put up that bond,” he said. “We needed to ensure this library is going to be built.”
He blamed delays on slowdowns in the economy, and insisted the project was going ahead as planned.
Spinosa told the Library Board in October that delays in getting a permit from the state Department of Transportation and Development had caused delays. He received the permit during the summer, he said.
If a construction bond has not been posted by Feb. 15, Woodard said, the library board should withdraw.
“I will make the motion at our February meeting to take whatever action is necessary,” Woodard said.
Of two other board members questioned Thursday, one said he would support withdrawing if Spinosa did not meet the deadline and the other said it would have to be seriously considered.
“It’s been frustrating because there has been a lack of urgency and direction,” said Jason Jacob. “There has been enough time allotted to Mr. Spinosa.”
Board president Kizzy Payton said she wasn’t willing to say the Library Board should get out of the project in February.
“We have the ability to hold Mr. Spinosa and 2590 (Associates) accountable,” she said. “The citizens want to know when this project is going to happen.”
Thursday’s agenda item was informational only; no vote was required by the library board. According to the agreement, extensions can be granted by the city-parish without the library board’s consent. There is no limit to the number of extensions that can be sought.