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The downtown River Center Branch Library, seen Feb. 20, 2019, is the subject of litigation over welding failures that led to a halt of construction.

The request to increase the compensation cap for the private law firm representing the city-parish in its legal dispute over the downtown River Center Branch Library was approved Wednesday by the East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council. 

The item, which essentially quadruples the amount of money Baton Rouge law firm Walters, Papillion, Thomas, Cullens can be paid litigating on the city-parish's behalf, sailed through Metro Council without any discussion or commentary from attendees during a public hearing.

The fee cap for legal services the firm can charge in the city-parish's fight against the architects and contractors associated with construction of the new downtown branch was raised from $17,500 to $67,500. 

Library Director Spencer Watts said Monday that cap could further increase if the case drags on, which city-parish officials expect it will. 

The city-parish in November sued WHLC Architecture and Schwartz/Silver, the architectural contractors who are also the project managers, and construction firm Buquet & Leblanc, placing fault on all three entities after welding failed on the beams that support the cantilever, a building feature that hangs over the sidewalk on the north side of the building, halting construction for a year. 

Construction resumed recently after the parish's Library Control Board fronted $2.7 million to complete the project while the lawsuit remains in the court system. City-parish officials are hopeful they can recoup all the money going into the project and case through a judgment in their favor. 

Also on Wednesday, the Metro Council set a public hearing for May 8 on a request from the Library Board to extend the city-parish's lease agreement with owners of the Kress building downtown where the River Center Branch has been temporarily located since construction of the new branch started.

The owners of the Kress building have offered the library board a 1½-month lease extension with the option of up to 11 additional one-month extensions at a cost of $16,898 per month.


Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.