Plans for new downtown Baton Rouge library hit snag with city leaders

Plans for new downtown Baton Rouge library hit snag with city leaders
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A new financial request to the city from the East Baton Rouge Library System has spurred an old debate among city leaders. The library has long planned to demolish and rebuild the River Center Branch downtown.

According to Library Director Spencer Watts, the renovations would bring state of the art facilities, technology and services to the downtown branch's many patrons. Watts said 92,000 people visited in 2015.

Watts said after several years of planning, they are ready to move forward with the bidding process for construction, but first they need to move the library's contents to a temporary location that would serve patrons while the project is underway.

"We do need a temporary space downtown to help the least mobile and the least affluent so that they can get to the technology, books, and materials that they have," said Watts.

On Wednesday, the library present the EBR Metro Council with a request to lease out a space downtown using money from the library's operational expenses, which is already budgeted for the year. The lease for space inside the Kress Building on Third Street would cost more than $14,500 a month. The construction could last up to two and half years.

"I believe this is budget insanity," said Councilman Buddy Amoroso.

Amoroso initially moved to delete the item, even questioning why the current library had to be demolished. Amoroso said the building should be renovated instead. However, funding and designs for the new building have long been in place.

"We don't need to revisit whether this library needs to torn down or not. We've done that," said Councilwoman Tara Wicker. "We already decided as a council and as a community what this community wants to see downtown."

Other council members asked if a cheaper alternative to the Kress Building could be found, even suggesting using space inside City Hall or a state owned building.

Ultimately, the decision was deferred 30 days.

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