Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Government Problems and Library Prospects Discussed at Last Meeting!

In attendance: Andrew Gaiennie, William Hartman, Kathy Gregorio, Ron Heezem, Cynthia Kieth, Maurice Loridans, Loren Demerath
The group first discussed how the blog is supposed to be used as a forum since the email list has now been deleted (and moved to “”) in the interests of not cluttering people's inboxes. We had a lively discussion about funding bike-ped transportation and we had put it on the blog, Loren commented, and then Maurice made a separate thread, but would it work with the same success as email?
We thought becoming a “follower” of the blog would give us email updates, but Steph reports it will only fit 10 people. Andrew said google apps has a google reader, and it could function as a way of working around that limit. Mike Mayo is working on our web presence and may have solution for that by the time he's done.
501-c3 UPDATE
Loren updated the group that with the assistance of Accounting Professor Barbara Davis of the Centenary College Frost School of Business, they have completed the paper work and sent in the application to the IRS for non-profiting filing. However, they misread the filing fee amount and will need to send an additional $100.
Progress is being made on the pedestrian bridge. We now have the engineer's report on the bridge. What we need now is to measure accurately the width of the drainage ditch we'll be crossing; it needs to be less than 60 feet in order to used the bridge we plan on asking for from the Sheriff's Department (they're not using it and we think they might be willing to donate it). Andrew Gaiennie said he happens to be a surveyor and has the equipment to make the measurement. (Thank you Andrew!)
An issue is whether it would interfere with flood water. A safe standard already established would seem to be the Betty Virginia park bridge. Making it that high could be a standard to shoot for. The height of King's and Alexander presumably would also be safe standards. Thus, there could be ramps constructed that would go up to the bridge that would be at the height of those streets.
It was noted that the city's elected officials on projects such as this have always been helpful; ABS has done lots of outreach work with officials, holding events, collecting signatures, etc., and documenting support for various city improvements. The same helpfulness hasn't been experienced, however, from certain staffers. What seems to happen is that the elected officials have to defer to the subject matter expert on the city staff. It was speculated that the expert can make up standards on the spot, and set them at an unattainable level. Such a tactic would serve the staffer's purpose of discouraging a city improvement that would otherwise mean more work for them, more strain on their budget, etc. An example of this was recently being told that the dog park had to be an expensive wrought iron fence, when a chain link fence is used throughout that area and in dog parks throughout the country.
We've learned through back channels that the city council doesn't want to ask the attorney general for an opinion on the application of the law that requires bicycle and pedestrians to be accommodated at the Youree and Kings intersection because they're worried the city engineers will delay the work for at least two years if they do so. 

Steph has looked at the plan and said it calls for all the current landscaping to be taken out and as much new concrete put in as possible. It also appears the manhole covers would be right in the tires' way. Usually manhole covers are inbetween the lanes so that cars don't have to swerve to avoid them. It was noted that only a transportation engineer or transportation planner would know about that. Steph (the latter) asked why it happened and Jeff Everson passed on that question, and the engineers said they decide on the placements in the field. That means they don't use a plan, or a planner to decide their placement. There are other examples of unplanned construction that, therefore, does not use the standard best practices. For example, Shreveport doesn't use the universal paint patterns of vertical stripes for pedestrian crosswalks. Instead, they use horizontal lines that waste paint as they become worn out and as tires run over them. William pointed to another example of unplanned construction at the pedestrian crossing in front of the Barnwell Center where there is a crosswalk with no curb cut or entry onto the sidewalk.
(Editor's note: it's an open question as to whether these problems are due to not having enough planners on the city staff, the negligence of the planners that are on the staff, or to the negligence of others that should be using city planners for projects but bypass them. If such a bypass is to keep costs down, it would be shortsighted. Poorly designed infrastructure costs the city in the long run, and the cost of planning is minimal. The Youree & Kings intersection is a 10 million dollar project, and the cost of planning would be in the neighborhood of one quarter of one percent of that total, and likely could be had for even less.)
Ron Heezen, Executive Director of the Caddo Parrish Public Library Systemonas a guest on the radio show “Time For A Better Shreveport” on KSCL 91.3 at 5 p.m. that evening, and the group was happy to have him there at the meeting as well. He spoke about the library system and it's importance for the community and its future. He noted that Caddo Parrish has 21 branch libraries. When they were going through the applications for building them, they were told not go for Lead Certification. But Ron said he would like to make them Lead Certified, and, where possible, self-sustaining and geothermal. The rationale includes the fact that such design saves money for tax payers in the long run. In Lavista, Nebraska the total heating and colling bill is now less than half of what it was for the old building that was a fraction of the size of the current new building. He is also planning on doing this with grant money, not tax dollars. They're also renovating the old Western Electric building that became the Verizon call center building. In that renovation, too, they'll be trying to reduce the amount of tax dollars that goes for energy. Everything that now happens on the fourth floor of the main library will go to the new building; that will save money and time in loading. It should allow a more efficient and cost effective administration of the library system.
Steph asked what percentage of our millage goes towards libraries, and Ron answered it is 8.9% of our property taxes. Steph noted that is was striking that we've never had a private source of support for the libraries which means people can't donate to the library if they want to. The Friends of Shreve Memorial Library Group isn't a 501-c3. However, Ron has recently helped form the new Shreve Memorial Library Foundation Incorporated that will be a non-profit organization to which people can donate to support the libraries.
Ron also noted other changes, such “Overdrive,” the software that the library now uses to allow patrons to download electronic content; why pay for an ebook?
Ron said he thought ABS could be a partner in the process of applying for grants to fund green construction, and members of the group were enthusiastic about that possibility.
It was noted that another area for ABS supporting libraries is as bike-ped destinations. There could be something akin to “safe-routes-schools” for libraries that would work to establish bike-ped means of traveling to libraries. Loren noted that one of the nicest walks in the city is along the “duck pond” from Shreveport-Barksdale to the Broadmoor branch, but one has to do it on the grass; there is no sidewalk or trail, though there easily could be. William noted that at the Hamilton branch there's a nice sidewalk going along the forested area out to Baird Rd., but nowhere along the road itself to walk. Neither on that road nor Bert Koons is it really possible for pedestrians to walk comfortably. (Loren happened to be working there this morning and watched a pedestrian walk—unsafely, it seemed—along Baird Rd.; also saw a cute armadillo scampering around the forested area where the sidewalk is.)
The group was grateful for Ron's attendance and enthusiastic about partnering with the library system to improve the quality of life in our fair city!
Next week's meeting will again be at Centenary Square, 6 to 7 p.m., and anyone is welcome!
Please feel free to comment to this post on anything related to these minutes, or, for that matter, anything else related to improving our city!

No comments: