LPL begins move to change direction of Events Center

By T. Scott Boatright

The Lincoln Parish Library Board of Control knows there’s a problem.

And after Wednesday’s monthly meeting in the Library Board Room at the LPL, the board has started making a move to try and fix that problem.

The LPL Events Center Committee presented a report during the meeting that concluded that the Events Center is “quite a facility,” but that lack of management has resulted in facility revenue falling short of expenses to keep it operating.

And in the end, the LPL approved three motions, including working with the Lincoln Parish Police Jury, to try to find the best way to turn the facility’s financial situation around. 

That’s because the Police Jury owns the land on which the LPJ and the Events Center operate.  

“The Police Jury has, and continues to be, wholly committed to and supportive of the Library,” the Events Center Committee report said. “The Police Jury is not simply the Library and Events Center’s landlord — the Police Jury has been an active and supportive partner to the Library and its mission over the years. Therefore, the Committee believes that the Library should actively include the Police Jury in this process.”

To make that happen the Library Board of Control approved a motion to share the report with the LPJ and ask it to help in determining the best course of action for the facility’s future.

And that might not be easy to accomplish, because as Events Center Committee chair Bill Jones told the board, “our recommendation on that is fuzzy,” hence the move to work with the LPJ to fix the problem.

“We want to talk to the Police Jury about that, because we don’t have a clear recommendation to make to the board at this point,” Jones said. “That’s work that needs to be done. But we do believe we need to get the Police Jury on the ground floor of all of this and walk hand-in-hand with them through the process. And that’s what our recommendation is. We do want them to have the report because they need to know that we have found it doesn’t make money, so we need to do something different. 

“The report includes four alternatives we’ve come up with. The Police Jury may have better ideas, I don’t know. But it would be an error, the committee believes, for us to get very far down the road without formerly engaging with the Police Jury.”

One of the biggest issues regarding the situation that In 2018 and 2019, which were called the “high-water marks” in the facilities financial history, the library devoted one employee full-time to management of the events center.  

But that position was eliminated in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and since then library staffers have handled bookings, scheduling, opening and closing the event center after that often occur after normal library hours.

The committee report stated that in 2018, the events center had revenues of $78,798 and Expenses- of $28,259, meaning a $50,449 surplus. And in 2019 events center  had revenues of $90,402 and expenses  of $25,365, resulting in a $65,037 surplus

But then COVID-19 happened, forcing some LPL staff cuts, in the events center coordinator position and the payroll costs that position required. And because usage revenue significantly fell in the post COVID-outbreak years of 2020 and 2021, those earlier surpluses are now misleading.

In 2018 and 2019, the payroll cost of the LPL Events Coordinator was at least $55,000. That payroll cost was included in the Library’s costs.

“It is the Committee’s finding that having the Library manage the events center generates no real profit for the Library and consumes staff time that should be devoted to running and improving the Library itself,” the committee report said. “The Library’s managing the Events Center has not been beneficial for either the Library or the Events Center and detracts from the optimum operation of both the Library and the Events Center.”

The committee report offered four alternatives to try and turn things and make the events center profitable:

  • Staff the Events Center with an entirely separate manager and furnish the resources necessary to properly market it; identify all costs incurred by the Events Center (set-up and clean-up, costs, insurance, repairs and maintenance) and require the Events Center to reimburse the Library for all such costs/services the Library provides to the Events Center.
  • Lease the Events Center out to a third party for a cash rent.
  • Enter into a joint venture with a third party whereby the third party and Library share the revenue on a percentage basis; provided that the joint venture reimburses the Library for all such costs/services the Library provides to the Events Center.
  • Turn the management of the Events Center over to the Police Jury.

Adding to the need to make the Events Center profitable is the one negative pointed out by the Events Center Committee report.

“The only apparent problem with the facility is the acoustics,” the report said. “That has been a consistent source of complaints.  Remedying that would require some capital expenditures.”

Also included in the report was a committee recommendation that while the process of determining an alternate, better method of managing the Events Center is underway, interim library director Marcie Nelson should minimize her time spent on managing the Events Center, and designate those tasks to other staff members.  

The LPL ended up passing three motions regarding the issue. 

The first was that the board recommends a different method of managing the Events Center is pursued. The second passed motion was for the Events Center Committee to present their report to the Police Jury to determine the best method to manage the Events Center moving forward.

And the third passed motion was to encourage Nelson to minimize the time she spends doing double duty trying to oversee the Events Center while also serving as Library Director.

“We need to investigate all four alternative proposals, and in the process of doing that we need to make some comparison studies and solicit some people who are in the business of managing such a facility,” Jones said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do there.”

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