Thursday, September 1, 2005

Building Mitigation Meeting on Library

Dear EM,
Here is the story of the Library's adventure with the Building Mitigation Committee, chaired by Mr. Taffaro, and with the Parish Council.
The whole affair began in September, 2005. Danny Menesse signed the Project Worksheet for the library building and FEMA allowed me to sign for the contents. Danny, for some reason, wanted me to sign for the Ducros Museum building which definitely did not belong to the library but not for the Chalmette building which had been paid for with library dedicated funds.
Minutes from January 13, 1959, talk about needing a new building. The library was a room in the courthouse at the time.
In 1961, the Library Board looked at vacant buildings as a possibility for a new place, but decided against buying used.
In February, 1962, a representative from a bonding company came to a meeting and Mr. Preble and the group decided to ask for a bond issue to finance a new building.
An audit report from December 31, 1963, reports the purchase of a library site for $5,000.00 and the purchase of US treasury bills. The audit report of December 31, 1988, shows that the bond was paid off. Dedicated library funds were used for the transactions.
From 2005 through the beginning of 2007, I met with various parish officials trying to get someone to give permission for the Library Board to proceed with repairs to the Chalmette building. At first, we thought the Parish was waiting for the 10% penalty to be waived - which made good sense to us.
Early in 2007, we were called to a Building Mitigation Meeting with Craig Taffaro, Judy Hoffmeister, Mark Madary, Chris Merkl, Dave Peralta, and Chief Stone.
They proposed that the Library's five acres between Judy and Bartolo be divided between Murphy and the Fire Department. Murphy was to build an education building for training personnel and the Chief was to build an office building for his staff. They also suggested the Board sell the property to get funds to build.
The Library Board refused the suggestions. The Board would not allow the Parish to take the property nor would it sell. The property cost one million ninety thousand dollars in 2001 and we knew we would lose too much. The committee backed down.
Subsequent meetings with the BMC (Building Mitigation Committee) resulted in various proposals from them. Always they would ask what we wanted to do and always we would say "we want to repair the building and work there until we can build a new building." They would send us away to think again, not accepting our decision to repair and wait.
The Committee always had suggestions: move in with a school library, ask Ms. Votier for land on her campus to build, move into the auditorium behind the cultural center or use what funds you have and

build. Their attitude was that any place was good enough for the library and besides, the Internet was available to answer questions.
Finally in May, 2007, we were given an ultimatum - choose from the options they had proposed. The first, formal Library decision was presented. (Building mitigation script, May 16).
The result of that meeting was the agenda for the June 5, 2007, council meeting. The Library Board was not told about items 39 and 40 on the agenda. A friend of the library notified us about the intent of the meeting. Joey was chairman and allowed me to address the Council before the motions were presented. Mr. Taffaro was infuriated with the statement, especially the comments about usurping the Library Board's authority. The motions about the library were never made at the June 5th meeting.
At the June 5th meeting, however, the Council did make some promises about getting the Judy-Bartolo property ready for building. I called Joey about the ftpromisesft when the minutes were published. The minutes simply state that Ms. Llamas read a statement. Nothing appeared about the Council's responses. The Council had made no formal and binding commitments.
Joey said we should come to the next Council meeting to get things worked out. We went back in July with another statement and Mr. Taffaro promised a resolution about the library to take care of everything.
That July meeting resulted in Resolution SBPC #66-07-07 dated July 24,2007.
We had no reason to argue with the resolution. We would use the donated Gates trailer until April, 2010, the end of the grant and move from there into a fttemporaryft facility the parish promised to provide. In the meantime, the Board had decided to investigate providing their own temporary facility on the Judy-Bortolo site.
With no consultation with me or the Library Board, we find that the library is to become part of the LaCoste project - not a fttemporary" solution at all. The first floor of a school building will be a permanent public library. We know no details other than what was reported in the Council minutes of February 7,2007.
Mrs. Kuehl's term on the Board was to end in 2011, Sally Wolfe's in 2009, Francesca DiFatta in 2009, Skip Malus in 2009. The terms of Pam Nevle, Fred Jirovec, and Rebecca Livaudais had expired, but the Parish rule is that an appointee continues until the Council appoints a replacement,
The Board still had a quorum of legally appointed members, but Mr. Taffaro decided that all parish Boards must be dissolved and everyone must reapply. To be fair, maybe that is why the Board was not consulted on decisions with the School Board, but I was not privy to arrangements either.
At the February 11, 2008, executive finance meeting Mrs. Kuehl and I attended, Mr. Louga and Mr. Ginart commented on the Library Board's inaction - we did not have a building ready for a library - and said the school solution was more than acceptable to them and we should not have a problem with the

Council's decision. Mr. Taffaro said it was the duty of parish government to provide a public library, and this was IT.
St. Charles Parish is building a branch library in Destrehan. The cost is between $250 and $300 a square foot. We have only enough money to build the same size building we are losing to Public Works. The Board is reluctant to squander the funds it has saved for nearly 20 years to build an inadequate building. Library standards suggest 1.25 square feet per capita. The Board would like to build a 33,000 square foot building to accommodate the present and future population.
Now, it is up to the people of the parish to decide whether this is a proper, permanent outcome for the public library in St. Bernard.

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