In October of 2018, the River Center Branch Library experienced some structural issues. 

In September of last year, the the Mayor’s office provided a tentative completion date

On Wednesday, February 20, Mayor Broome produced an update on the situation surrounding the River Center Branch Library with this statement: 

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.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library followed with this statement: 

It is time to move forward with the River Center Branch Library construction project. 

Due to issues associated with the steel connections and supports in April, protective measures were taken at the building site. The City-Parish hired an independent firm and launched a review of the problem. Following a thorough, careful review and analysis, involving a number of engineers and all of the responsible parties, the particular issue was defined. The engineers reached a consensus regarding a sound and complete corrective, remedial plan in August. 

Unfortunately, although there seemed to be a reasonable and logical solution, the responsible parties could not reach complete agreement on proceeding with the project. An attempt at mediation was not successful. The City-Parish has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to resolve this impasse. Unfortunately, the processes associated with this type of legal action usually take a substantial amount of time. In the interim, if construction does not resume, costs can continue to accumulate and the partially complete building can begin to experience deterioration. This situation poses a risk to the significant investment that has already been made in the project. In addition, it is important for the construction process to be fully reinitiated to preserve the working knowledge and experience of the construction team.

The most direct path to resuming the project is for the City-Parish to issue a change order. This brings an end to the problems associated with delay, and will allow the facility to be completed as originally planned and put into useful service. This is the recommended course of action by our legal team and the Mayor’s Office. A request for the change order will be presented on the Metro Council’s agenda for their February 27, 2019 meeting.

The Library Board of Control, after consulting with our lawyers and the City-Parish administration, has given this matter careful consideration and fully supports this approach. The change order is estimated to involve $2.746 million, and it is expected that legal action or additional negotiation will eventually recover this amount. At this point, however, the Library needs to provide the funding in order to move forward. The Library Board of Control prudently reserves money for emergencies. In this case we intend to use funding from operational cost savings combined with a transfer among capital funds to finance the change order. There will be no substantive impact on any other major projects or a decrease in current Library services.

Library Board of Control President Jason Jacob noted, “The Library Board of Control fully supports the Mayor-President’s decision to resume construction and complete the River Center Branch. We look forward to getting the construction back on track so we can finish the building and keep our commitment to the citizens of the Parish.”