Letter: Library promise should be kept

In The Advocate of Dec. 3, an article featured the Fairwood Branch Library. Groundbreaking for this branch on Old Hammond Highway took place in September 2011, and it’s projected to open its doors in March.

The new Goodwood Main Library is on a similar timeline. Groundbreaking for this took place in October 2011, and it’s set to open its doors about October.

At the other end of the scale is the long-promised library branch in south Baton Rouge. The initial promise was made in 2002, when then-Library Director John Richard and the Library Board began looking for an appropriate site. This was long before a new main library or the Fairwood Branch were even “born.” It was still a promise in 2005 when the citizens of the parish passed the 10-year library system tax.

In 2006, developer J.T. Spinosa jumped in and promised he would build that branch on his recently acquired Rouzan property. Since then, there has not even been a groundbreaking, much less any construction. And since then, he has entered into three cooperative endeavor agreements with the city-parish and the Library Board. The only products that have come out of these agreements have been delays, excuses and obfuscation by himself and his spokespersons.

The third of these three agreements was signed just last month. It gave Spinosa yet a third deadline to get moving on construction. However, this particular agreement contained a single, very important distinction: “Successive 30 day extensions may be granted at the sole and complete discretion of the city-parish.” Thus the developer’s delays can now be added one right behind the other, easily and legally — and any deadline date thus becomes meaningless.

And, by the way, this applies only to the infrastructure — not even to the construction of the actual building. Very slick.

It has now been almost seven years that this farce has been allowed by the city-parish and the Library Board. They should have long ago terminated this contract because of a lack of performance, selected another contractor (by the bid process this time, instead of through political preference), and proceeded to fulfill their promise to the public for a branch library in this area.

Instead, on this issue the city-parish and the Library Board have shown a disregard for propriety in the stewardship of the library system (fulfillment of promises to the public), a lack of responsibility in properly allocating resources (tax dollars) of the library system and an inequality of distribution of library services (branch library locations) to the citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish.

John Berry

database consultant

Baton Rouge