East Baton Rouge Parish Library officials will look for alternative sites to the proposed Rouzan Branch Library after library board members expressed frustration with a proposed agreement between the project’s developer and the city-parish.
The latest snag in the long-delayed project at Rouzan, a mixed-use development on Perkins Road, came Thursday when the Library Board of Control took up consideration of the agreement between the city-parish and Rouzan developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa.
Spinosa donated the land for a library branch in 2010, but since then the project has been mired in delays and disputes over when infrastructure around the site should be built. The agreement up for consideration Thursday was supposed to remedy those concerns.
But board members were angry that they received a copy of the revised agreement only minutes before Thursday’s 4 p.m. meeting.
The proposed agreement “came in an email as I was driving over,” Tanya Freeman said. “I have not had time to review it at all.”
Assistant Parish Attorney Leo D’Aubin, who has been negotiating the deal on behalf of the city-parish, and Spinosa met outside the meeting room just after the meeting started.
When they returned, D’Aubin said they had a “signed agreement.”
The new agreement stipulates that Spinosa would complete certain infrastructure around the proposed library site by Feb. 28. An earlier version gave Spinosa 270 days, but allowed for rain delays. The new deadline would be irrespective of rain delays, D’Aubin said.
The required infrastructure includeshim with everything he asked for.”
Board members were also united in their desire library staff continue to scout for alternative sites to the Rouzan site.
“At this point it would be foolish not to,” Woodard said.
Board member Melanie Way said the l a street connecting the library to Perkins Road, another street that surrounds the library site, and a third street that connects the site to Glasgow Avenue.
Parking, drainage and sewer are also part of the required infrastructure.
Board member Stanford O. Bardwell Jr. said he had problems with an earlier draft of the agreement and refused to endorse one he had not time to review.
“I am not comfortable at all; I will not vote for this today,” Bardwell said. “The fix on this was handed to me five minutes after four o’clock.”
Complicating the process is that the library board does not have to agree to the document. Because the city-parish owns the land, Mayor-President Kip Holden is the one who can execute the agreement.
The board voted unanimously to recommend that Holden not execute the agreement until after the library board has had time to review it.
Spinosa refused to comment after the meeting, saying only “just another day at the library.”
Later, a spokesman for Spinosa said the developer was disappointed.
“Having worked very closely with Mr. D’Aubin to address all of the issues to his satisfaction, we are disappointed that the board has decided to postpone,” Jeff Wright said. “We worked hard, we provided ibrary system could look at Rouzan and other sites.
“At this point it just makes sense to keep going down both roads,” she said.
Library Director Spencer Watts said the informal inquiries had already been made, including about a site on College Drive. Library officials also talked to representatives from the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board about using part of the Lee High School site.
“They have a lot that they need to put into a small space,” Watts said of the School Board and Lee High School. “It would take some while to see how that might work out.”
Library staff was waiting to hear back about some other potential sites, Watts said.