The Lafayette Parish public library board at a special meeting Monday is expected to discuss the impact of a proposal that would direct more of its savings to drainage and roads, and to consider committing to construction of a new library in the northeast part of the city.
The City-Parish Council voted April 9 to place before voters Oct. 12 a proposal to transfer $10 million of the library’s $26 million fund balance to roads, bridges and drainage. Mayor-President Joel Robideaux had asked for $18 million.
In an April 24 email to the council and later on his Facebook page Robideaux said the library’s spending on furnishings for a new Scott branch, including more than $10,000 on a booth seating unit that’s built out of a classic Ford Mustang, undermines the public’s confidence in the library system’s leadership. As a result, he is asking the council at its meeting Tuesday to revise the Oct. 12 ballot redirecting $18 million of the library’s $26 million fund balance.
Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux wants the library savings used for libraries, particularly to build a branch in the northeast of the city, an area that’s socioeconomically challenged and is cut off from existing public libraries by Interstate 49 and Evangeline Thruway.
Requests for the new library have been ignored or delayed for years, Boudreaux said, while four new branches were built, the main library was renovated and a bookmobile was purchased.
He wants to use $8 million of the $26 fund balance to build the new northeast branch, maybe $4 million on other capital projects, plus the $10 million re-dedication already heading to voters which would leave the library system with $4-6 million in reserve, which would grow in eight years to $10-12 million.
“This isn’t about wiping them out,” Boudreaux said, “putting them at risk of being able to operate, not being able to repair if something goes wrong.”
His proposal has “good support” from the council, he said.
“The people want a library. Put the technology in it. Put the books in it,” he said. “They’re going to rebuild Notre Dame (Cathedral in Paris) in five years. Why can’t they build a library?”
“I have no problem with his request,” Library Director Teresa Elberson said.
The northeast library branch funding, she said, will be in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget which is due in a week.
The library board is meeting in special session Monday to discuss the proposal on the council agenda Tuesday, Elberson said, and the budget situation if the library loses so much of its reserve funds.
The board also may adopt a resolution assuring Boudreaux the northeast branch library construction will be placed in the 2019-20 budget.
The northeast library branch was never part of the package approved in 2002 to build four new libraries and renovate the main library, Elberson said. But the Scott branch, which opens March 13, is the last of that group and library officials have been discussing the last two years what’s next, she said.