Prairieville Councilman takes strong stand against $3.1 million library expansion

District 7 Councilman Aaron Lawler

Let me preface this by stating that I am card carrying member of the Ascension Parish Library, as is my family.  When I do go to the library, I usually use the Galvez branch.  I have also attended homeowners association meetings at the library.  But the reality is the Library Board is misspending our tax dollars and I am taking a stand.  In simple terms, why is the Library Board spending 3.1 million tax dollars to expand the Galvez library when St. Amant has been waiting for years for a library?  Why are the libraries overstaffed, which is another waste of our tax dollars?

It is galling to think that St. Amant should have to wait at least two more years for a library, that per Angelle Deshautelles, library director, will cost 5.1 million tax payers dollars because the Library wants to add some study rooms, additional computers, a larger meeting room and parking to a perfectly functional and underutilized library.  The tax payers of St. Amant have been paying the library millage for over 15 years with nothing to show for it.  St. Amant, you deserve more, something, anything.  The Library Board owns the property in St. Amant.  I suggested to Ms. Deshautelles that they could begin construction immediately if the 3.1 million was rededicated to the St. Amant Branch construction.  The  response was that they can’t because the St. Amant Branch has not been designed.  Do we need to re-invent the wheel? Re-designing is another waste of tax payer dollars.  The parish has already built four libraries, three of which could be used as the design for the new library.

Everyone should remember that tax payers dollars are at stake.  Why is it necessary for the Libraries to be overstaffed?  Are 4-5 employees at the Galvez branch at 8:30 in the morning in the middle of April a wise use of tax dollars?  I asked Ms. Deshautelles this question.  She said they need more people during the summer, so she keeps them all on the books.  The analogy used by the library representatives was that Wal-Mart has cashiers waiting at open registers.  REALLY?  Have they ever been to the Wal-Mart in Prairieville or Gonzales.  No, businesses that are successful do not over staff because the costs associated with doing so are enormous.  But not to be outdone. Ms. Deshautelles added, that if she has to lay someone off she will tell them it was because of me.  Basically a threat.  But as I have said, I am not doing my job as a councilman if I favor the needs of an individual over what is best for the community as a whole.  Government needs to be run more efficiently, and this includes our libraries.  If more employees are needed during the Summer months and less during the school months, then we should staff accordingly.  We should also be considering internships from LSU and SLU students, specifically those in the School of Library and Information Science.

Property tax charg

In 2015, almost 8 million tax dollars ($8,000,000.00) were paid to the Ascension Parish Libraries.  That is 6% of the total 2015 property taxes collected.  A tremendous amount of tax dollars.  The third largest chunk of property taxes paid to a single entity in the parish behind the School Board and the Sheriff’s Office.  The Library will tell you all this money is accounted for and spent or will be spent.  Of course it is.  That is why the Library Board is intent on making a 3.1 million dollar renovation at the expense of the St. Amant Library. It is politics.  They want to be able to tell the public that they spend every dollar they collect and that when it is time to renew the millage in 2020, they will have just finished the St. Amant Branch, which will cost more the longer they wait to build it.  I would prefer that the people of St. Amant get what they have been paying toward for over 15 years, a library of their own. Sooner.  Not 2-3  years down the road.

If the Library Board is intent on spending 3.1 million of taxpayers in Prairieville, I have some ideas for them.  That money could fully enable a roundabout at the corner of Parker Rd. and La. 929, which would ease traffic before the new high school is built.   With the remaining 1.9 million, the Library Board could help give Prairieville something it desperately needs, a real playground with a walking track, tennis courts, an all-inclusive play area, ball fields and drainage.  But if you ask the Library Board, we need more study rooms and a conference room.  Shhhhhh.  Don’t tell them Oak Grove Spray Park has a new, beautiful conference room.

Finally, why would a councilman that represents Prairieville be willing to stick out his neck for the people of St. Amant?   Because it is the right thing to do.  We are no longer serving the politics of “bring home the bacon, even if it is wasteful”.  Trust me, I am fighting to get Prairieville improved drainage, road improvements, less traffic, great recreation and less crowded schools.  I am also going to fight for fiscally responsible spending throughout the parish.  I have already been warned that if you challenge the Library Board, they will come after you with a vengeance.  I was asked if I was against education.  See, rather than debating the issue the merits of the two projects, I am accused of being against education.  But, we know that education and excessive spending on libraries are not synonymous. Please ask my family, friends and anyone else who knows me if I am “against education”.  It is laughable, but it is a preview of what is to come.   I have also been told I will not be re-elected if I challenge the Library Board.  Maybe so.  I did not run for parish council to get re-elected.  I ran to do what I pray is best for Prairieville and all of Ascension.

Aaron Lawler

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