Mayor-president will ask for nearly $3M to repair downtown library during litigation

Mayor's office asking for almost $3M to speed up repairs to downtown library

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome says she will petition the metro council to provide temporary financing for repairs of the River Center Branch Library while parish attorneys continue litigation with the architects and construction company that was hired to build it.

The library has been closed since engineers discovered a structural failure on Apr. 18, 2018.

On Nov. 30, 2018, attorneys for the city-parish filed a lawsuit against WHLC Architecture, Schwartz/Silver Architects of Massachusetts, Buquet & Leblanc and their insurance companies for breach of contract, negligence, breach of warranties, misrepresentations and breach of good faith and fair dealing.

In her Feb. 20 statement, Broome says the city-parish’s legal team informed her that the lawsuit filed against the architects and construction company could take anywhere between two and five years to resolve.

Broome says in an effort to expedite the completion of the the repairs, she will be asking the Metro Council to approve a change order that “will allow the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system to temporarily finance the $2,746,243.00 needed to complete the building.”

If the metro council approves the measure on Feb. 27, construction would soon resume on the River Center Branch Library.

Read the mayor-president’s full statement below:

"In an ongoing effort to communicate as openly and transparently as possible regarding the River Center Branch Library (RCBL), I am releasing the following update on the project and its associated litigation:

On April 18, 2018, the RCBL experienced a structural failure related to steel connection issues as identified in previously released evaluation reports. A team of structural engineers, including a firm hired independently by the City-Parish, analyzed the building to investigate the cause of the event and offered a solution to repair the structure which was ultimately accepted.

Efforts to resolve conflicts between the City-Parish and the Architect were attempted in order to negotiate a diplomatic resolution regarding the structural issues through mediation; however, all parties were not in mutual agreement to continue with this course of action. On November 30, 2018, the Parish Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit in order to protect the taxpayer’s $17.5M investment in the RCBL, which was damaged at no fault of the City-Parish or Library Board.

After consulting with our legal team, it was brought to our attention that this type of litigation could take between two and five years to complete. During this period of time, the library would remain vacant and unfinished. Not only would the building become an eyesore in the center of Downtown Baton Rouge, but it could become compromised to the point that significant additional repair work would be required. Our attorneys have stressed that we are obligated to mitigate additional damage that could occur as a result of the building remaining unfinished. Additionally, it is imperative that we maintain the knowledge intrinsic in our construction workforce and that they be allowed to continue their work in order to produce the quality structure the citizens of Baton Rouge have been promised.

My administration and our legal team agree that expediting the completion of the building protects the substantial investment made by taxpayers when this project was approved eight years ago under Mayor Holden’s administration. On February 27, 2019, an item will appear on the Metro Council agenda requesting approval of a change order that will allow the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system to temporarily finance the $2,746,243.00 needed to complete the building.

Pending approval of the change order by the Metro Council, construction would resume on the RCBL. The Parish Attorney’s Office would then aggressively pursue recovery of the funds through the litigation process.

While the Library Board of Control is responsible for the operation of the library and service policies, the City-Parish is the sole property owner. Both entities fully support this approach and wish to see the RCBL come to a successful completion and open its doors to the public as quickly as possible."

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