Library board to get update on downtown library design contract

Library board to get update on downtown library design contract

Nearly one year after a city-parish committee selected a joint venture by WHLC Architecture of Baton Rouge and Boston-based Schwartz/Silver Architects to design a new $19 million downtown library, the contract has yet to be inked.

But Department of Public Works Director William Daniel says the contract is close to being finalized, and that negotiations could be wrapped up as soon as next week. The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board of Control is scheduled to receive an update from DPW at its meeting this afternoon.

WHLC Architecture's Rex Cabaniss, lead architect for the project, declined to discuss the contract negotiations or why they have taken so long. However, some part of the delay appears to hinge on how much of the total project budget the firm will get to design what officials are calling "high-tech library" that includes the latest in online research tools and technology.

"This is not going to be a paper library. This is going to be a high-tech library," Daniel says. "I think everybody shares that vision, but I think the architect wanted to put some more money in the contract for that … and I think there is money in the budget for that."

While the Metro Council appropriated $19 million total for the project, design fees are negotiated separately from within that pool of money.

Meanwhile, an attorney for a competing architecture firm that also bid on the project says his client is deciding whether to pursue legal action against the city-parish.

Grey Sexton, who represents architect Trey Trahan, presented details of Trahan's case last week to the city-parish Design Selection Committee, which selected the WHLC-Schwartz/Silver team for the project over Trahan last year.

Trahan has alleged that misleading information damaging to him was circulated among selection board members prior to the May 2011 vote. Daniel says the board heard Sexton's presentation but is moving forward with its contract negotiations with WHLC-Schwartz/Silver.

"I'm not surprised [by that] but am profoundly disappointed," Sexton says. "We are evaluating our options that may be available."

The Library Board of Control meets at 4 p.m. at the BREC Administration Building, 6201 Florida Blvd. The board is also slated to discuss the library branch planned at the Rouzan traditional neighborhood development on Perkins Road and to provide an update on the search for a new director. See the full agenda here.

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