They asked for how much? New questions surface about how EBR library is spending money

Community polarized by questionable spending on big ticket items for library

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - After uproar came earlier in the week about the East Baton Rouge Parish Library budgeting more than $94,000 for a new OmniGlobe, WAFB obtained the library’s 2018 budget, which contains more head scratching allocations of taxpayer dollars.

“They’re just doling out taxpayer money like it’s candy,” said new library board member, Chance Wilson.

On the list of allocated items are:

  • $240,000 to overhaul and upgrade the only 3-year-old A/V system in the library’s large meeting room
  • $35,000 for furniture for the previously vacated deputy director’s office
  • $174,350 for a book dispenser in the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport
  • $94,900 for the OmniGlobe for the EBR Library’s River Center Branch

Wilson says this is the exact same OmniGlobe that can be accessed at the nearby Louisiana Arts and Science Museum.

“A quarter million dollars for an A/V system, I don’t understand,” Wilson said. “See, that’s the problem here. The Library Board of Control has become a rubber stamp. [Library Director] Spencer Watts and the library board go to the administration and say, ‘I want this, this, this and this,’ and they just stamp it and give it to them.”

WAFB reached Watts by phone. He says they only spent around $12,000 on the deputy director’s office and says the leftover money is cycled back into the budget. Watts added it’s difficult to predict what these things cost.

“You’re looking at it as us being reckless in some way. We look at as being prudent,” Watts said. “When it costs less than it looks like it will, that’s a good thing. I think it’s really kind of strange to make that into a bad thing,” he added.

“To that, I would say why was that amount even allocated in the first place?” Wilson said. “I think there needs to be a change, I really do.”

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