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Library Board meets Thursday

The East Baton Rouge Parish Library Board is expected to discuss the continued search for a location for a south branch library during a meeting today.

In February, the board unanimously agreed to hire site consultant Leotta-Evers Consulting, LLC. to help it find a location for the long-awaited south branch library.

The board meets at 4 p.m. at the new main library on Goodwood.

According to a tentative agenda, the board also will discuss the downtown library overhaul, policies for evaluating the library director and concerns over a tax abatement proposal.

One other note: the board will be down a member at this month’s meeting.

Earlier this month, the Metro Council appointed Terrie Lundy to a vacancy on the board, following the departure of Chip Boyles. Because Boyles’ term would have expired May 16, the council filled the position with nominations for a term to start May 17. Lundy was recommended by Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards.

Work underway on lakes master planning

Surveyors measure the depths of the City Park/LSU lakes on April 16, 2014. Photo courtesy BRAF.

Surveyors measure the depths of the City Park/LSU lakes on April 16, 2014. Photo courtesy BRAF.

A team from Fugro Consultants has begun measuring the depths across the City Park and LSU lakes today in Baton Rouge, signaling the start of a long-awaited master planning effort to preserve the lakes and enhance recreation space.

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation announced late last month that it planned to  launch a master plan to keep the lakes located at the heart of Baton Rouge from reverting to swampland. The project has been dubbed “Destination: The Lakes.”

Details from BRAF on the work that started today: “Surveyors are motoring across the lakes in a grid with sonar and GPS to do the work. Surveying and geotechnical analysis will tell master planners how much material has to be dredged, and how it can then be used to build new amenities, such as walking paths along the shoreline.”

Read more about the master plan efforts here.


Metro Council set to take up River District plans

Rendering via The River District. Read more.

Rendering via The River District. Read more.

The Metro Council is slated to vote today on zoning changes needed for the River District, a nearly 35-acre mixed-use development that will be located along Nicholson Drive between downtown and LSU.

The project’s details include 1,825 high-density residential units and seven medium-density units, plus 118,500 square feet of commercial space, 274,000 square feet of office space, 34,000 square feet of restaurant space and two hotels. Construction of the first housing units could begin by the end of the year, according to developers.

The River District, which will tie into the proposed Water Campus anchored by the Water Institute of the Gulf and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, also will include a public plaza facing Magnolia Mound.

The Metro Council’s zoning meeting is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. today in the council chambers at City Hall. It also will air on public access channel Metro 21

Also on the council’s agenda: a zoning change that could benefit the Rouzan development.

Parish officials have said the change is intended to make the traditional neighborhood development ordinance consistent with other sections of the unified development code.

CATS to purchase 6 new buses

The Capital Area Transit System is moving forward with its long-term plans to replace aging buses that negatively impact the agency’s reliability.

On Tuesday the CATS board signed off on the purchase of six new buses this year, with the hope that funding for six more will be found by the year’s end.

CATS board president Bob Mirabito said the agency hopes to purchase 12 new buses every year for the next four years, and then move down to eight buses per year after that. He said the average age of a CATS bus is nine years right now, and buses typically only last about 12 years.

The buses will take about 18 months to arrive. They cost about $420,000 each, but CATS will only pay 20 percent because of federal grants cover the rest.


Metro Council considers proposal to rename street for long-time pastor

The Metro Council is slated to consider a proposal this week to rename a street for New Light Missionary Baptist Church‘s long-time pastor, the Rev. H.B. Williams.

Currently called Kelly Street, the short road runs between the North Baton Rouge church and its outreach center, which was built in 2002.

The City-Parish Planning Commission unanimously voted in favor of the name change.


Click for enlarged map

According to the church, Williams served as pastor from 1965 to 2005. He died in 2008 at 80 years old.

Report: EBR per capita income grew slightly over 5 years

Per capita income in East Baton Rouge Parish rose slightly between 2007 to 2012, according to a new analysis from

EBR’s reported $42,671 per capita personal income in 2012 was up $642, or 1.5%, from 2007, the report shows.

Governing, publication focused on state and local government issues, analyzed per capita personal income data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and adjusted for inflation to get its figures.

EBR fell in the top 10 Louisiana parishes for personal income in 2012, coming in behind (in order from highest) Lafayette, St. Tammany, Lafourche, Jefferson, Caddo, Ascension, Tensas and Orleans parishes.

Nationally, per capita personal income declined slightly between 2007 and 2012 – about $297 – when adjusted for inflation, Governing reports.

Louisiana’s biggest five-year, inflation adjusted percentage growth was seen in East Carroll Parish, which saw a 39.5 percent increase in per capita personal income.

Explore all of the data on and check out the site’s interactive map for a quick look at per capita changes in Louisiana and across the U.S.

TOP GROWTH: Parishes that saw the biggest percentage increase in per capita personal income. (via

TOP GROWTH: Parishes that saw the biggest percentage increase in per capita personal income. (via

Another finalist pulls out of planning director search

UPDATED: Read Carolyn Rutledge’s letter below. Another candidate for city-parish planning director has pulled out of the search.Carolyn Rudledge withdrew her name from consideration but didn’t give a reason for her decision in the letter she submitted to the City-Parish Planning Commission. The Advocate obtained a copy of the letter through a public records request.

That leaves three candidates for the post:

- Former planning director for Norfolk, Va., Frank Duke, who holds degrees from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Auburn University and Florida State University and served as an intern for Baton Rouge’s retired planning director, Troy Bunch.

- Lake Charles-native Don Broussard,  who owns a planning and design firm in Atlanta, has previously served in public planning roles in that area and has degrees from Georgia Tech and LSU.

- Woodrow Muhammad, a Baton Rouge-native and planning director for Central who has degrees from LSU and Southern University.

Interim planning director Ryan Holcomb told The Advocate last week that background checks are still underway and second-round interviews have not yet been scheduled for the remaining candidates.

The Planning Commission had unanimously voted to hire Cincinnati planning director Charles Graves for the post after the first round of interviews, but Graves declined the offer.

Carolyln Rutledge’s letter to the Planning Commission:


Carolyln Rutledge's letter to the Planning Commission.

Addition to BR Film Commission staff expected

The Baton Rouge Film Commission is moving to hire someone to handle its administrative office duties through at least the end of the year. 

Alison Wisecarver, a film student at LSU who has interned with Visit Baton Rouge and the Celtic Media Centre, will manage the Film Baton Rouge website and databases and assist in film scouting. Liza Kelso is the commission’s executive director.

Wisecarver’s $28,000 contract is slated to be heard at the Metro Council’s April 9 meeting.

According to Visit Baton Rouge’s annual report for 2013,, which was overhauled last year with the commission’s rebranding efforts, averages 2,000 unique visitors each month.

The Baton Rouge Film Commission’s current operating budget will cover the costs of Wisecarver’s contract so no additional funds will be needed, according to the mayor’s office.

The Film Commission’s goal has been to continue to beef up Baton Rouge’s profile as a destination for movie making and keep a steady flow of movie productions coming to the city.

Based on Visit Baton Rouge’s stats, the 20 productions filmed here in 2013 generated $104 million in local spending.

Films ahead for 2014 include the reboot of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, which is slated to begin filming in Baton Rouge on April 28 and Pitch Perfect 2, which will start shooting next month.

Walking paths planned for downtown Baton Rouge

American Heart Association and the Downtown Development District will unveil and dedicate four downtown walking paths Wednesday (April 2) for National Walking Day.

The paths, at distances of one mile, two miles and three miles, are sponsored by Albemarle Foundation, Amedysis and Milton J. Womack.

“The accessibility that these walking paths provide are a valuable resource to help them maintain a healthy and active lifestyle while at work,” Michael Pitts of Amedisys said in a news release.

The dedication event will be at 10:30 a.m. at North Boulevard Town Square.

Southdowns board member says poor people are not welcomed, likely to commit crimes

On Wednesday, Paul Naquin, a board member for the Southside Civic Association, was a guest on the Jim Engster show to discuss his displeasure with former mayoral candidate and property manager Steve Myers, who frequently rents his properties in the affluent Southdowns neighborhood to college students.

In his interview, Naquin said residents of Southdowns do not want poor people living in their neighborhood. He also said people with “less means” are more likely to commit crimes.

For years, the city-parish has limited rentals in A-1 residential neighborhoods with a housing ordinance that prevents more than three unrelated people from living together. To enforce the ordinance, neighborhood associations usually have to collect evidence of the violation to present to the city-parish, which then sues the property owner. In Southdowns, Naquin is well known for reporting the alleged violations and ensuring that the ordinance is enforced.

The ordinance was deemed unconstitutional last year by a district court judge, after Myers sued the city-parish. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the coming weeks.

On Engster’s morning radio show, Naquin discussed his latest concerns with Myers encouraging people eligible for federal housing subsidies to rent his Southdowns properties.

Here’s a transcript of the interview:

Engster: Section 8 is associated with people who don’t have a lot of means, and this is, of course, a very nice neighborhood we’re talking about. You’re not concerned about him (Myers) renting to people who might not have as many means as you, are you, Paul?

Naquin: Well, we’d like to have everybody in the neighborhood like everybody else. You know, we don’t want a bunch of people in there of real poor means in there.

Engster: Why not? It might enhance the neighborhood to have some people with a different life perspective.

Naquin: Well that depends on who goes in there. You see all the trouble we have in Baton Rouge and other cities with people that don’t have that much…

Engster: You’re saying poor people are more dangerous than people who are affluent?

Naquin: Well, look at what’s in the newspaper all day, everyday, and see who is being charged with different things and that should answer your question.

Engster: Poor people?

Naquin: We don’t have a bunch of professional people who are being arrested for this, that and the other.

Naquin’s interview starts at the 45 minute mark. Click here to listen.