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New downtown library project in limbo, again

4 years ago August 11, 2011 Aug 11, 2011 Thursday, August 11 2011 Thursday, August 11, 2011 9:32:42 PM CDT in News
Source: WBRZ
By: Ashley Rodrigue

BATON ROUGE-  A new downtown library could be off the table next week, due to flack about the project.

The Library Board will vote on whether to put the work on hold, a complete 180-degrees after weeks of arguing over it last year.

The project costs nearly $20 million and would replace the out-dated River Center branch.

The Metro Council approved the project back in December, but there was heat about it from people who said it was too expensive.  The new library would have opened in about three years.

But now it seems to be on the fast track to nowhere, with Library Department administrators claiming they're being pressured by several groups, including Metro Council, to change directions.  But that is leaving many confused, including the Metro Council.

"It's surprising," said Councilwoman Tara Wicker, "I did not have that information at all ahead of time so it's a little bit of a shock."

"Pleasantly surprised and glad that if this is in fact the way it's gonna work out, I think it's good," said Councilman Smokie Bourgeois.

Bourgeois voted against the rebuild.  He says he's played no part in putting the project back in the lime-light, but thinks the public did.

"I think they just finally woke up to reality that people really don't want it and really don't want to support it," he said.

The people Bourgeois is talking about includes the TEA Party of Baton Rouge, who packed council chambers to oppose the plan from the start.

"It's a shock in a good way," said Baton Rouge TEA Party President Mike Thibodeaux, "We take our victories wherever we can get them. We don't look a gift horse in the mouth, so we'll take this one."

Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who represents Downtown and supports the library, says she's knocked back by the news, but not down and out.

"This is a conversation that had some debate and so there were some issues with it," she said, "But at the same time, I know that the board had the public hearings, they had the public input, it was voted on, so to go back and put it back on the agenda for it to be revoked, it's shocking to me and I'm sure shocking to the community."

The board decides the fate of the project next Thursday.

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