Library investigation called off, Hogan leaves matter to public

November 24, 2009 at 9:39 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Library investigation called off, Hogan leaves matter to public
After the Parish Council voted against his resolution, Councilman Paul Hogan said that he will no longer call for an investigation into the size increase of the East Bank Regional Library.

Instead, he will leave the fate of the Library Board in the hands of the voters.

“Accountability can now only be obtained through the demand of the public,” Hogan said. “If the public decides to vote down the library millage in next year’s election, that will leave the council with no choice but to undertake an investigation. Only after an investigation will the public have the confidence in the library system to approve a millage.”

The existing dedicated library millage, which funds the parish library system, will expire in 2010. A vote to renew the millage should take place in October of that year.

Ever since taking office, Hogan has had a problem with the increase of the new East Bank Regional Library from 26,000 square feet to 39,655 square feet. Hogan said that increase cost taxpayers over $3 million. He also said that no documentation has been provided to him to explain this increase and that the increases were never authorized by members of the library board.

At Monday’s council meeting, several council members spoke out against Hogan’s resolution, saying that the council itself approved a 39,655 square-foot building. And just because the Library Board didn’t vote on the matter, doesn’t mean they weren’t in full agreement of the changes.

“I went to a Library Board meeting the other night and they discussed the new branch in Paradis, which we had envisioned as a 5,000 square-foot building,” Council Chairman Terry Authement said. “Now, the building is 1,000 square feet bigger than that and the architect explained all of the changes to the board. They never voted on it, but no one had any objections to it.”

Authement went on to say that he combed through tons of documentation from the Library Board that was given to him by Hogan, and he didn’t see anything that was done illegally.

Councilman Dennis Nuss also said that there is not enough evidence to warrant an investigation and that one undertaken by an outside entity would just cost taxpayers even more money. Councilman Larry Cochran said that someone could have made a technical error during the process, but that nothing criminal was done.

The Library Board began looking at expanding the current East Regional Library in 2003, but eventually decided to build a new building on land donated by BP.

The parish accepted the land donation in 2006.

The project was originally planned as a 26,000 square-foot building, but was put out for bid as a 39,655 square-foot building in 2007.

The current council voted 5-4 to accept the bid.

The building, which is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year and open to the public by the end of 2009 or early 2010, will have a similar collection of books, magazines and periodicals as the current east regional library.

The building will be two stories, the first floor will house all of the public areas. This will include both a large children’s area and a dedicated room just for the youngsters.

Though Hogan is hoping that parish residents vote down a millage renewal next year, if they don’t do so, he said he will drop the issue for good.

“It’s now up to the public to decide,” he said. “ If they want accountability, they will defeat the millage. If they do not care about how their money is spent, they will approve the millage.

“I, as a taxpayer, cannot support it without accountability with the use of my tax dollars.”

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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