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Belleair Beach's new City Hall delayed

The cost for the building has increased, and council members consider scaling back their plans for it.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
Published July 2, 2006


BELLEAIR BEACH - Stunned by a $1-million hike in the sticker price for its new City Hall, the City Council on Thursday officially delayed construction plans and instructed its architect to cut the size and cost of the new facility.

Last year, council members borrowed $3-million - enough, they thought, to pay for the construction, furnishings and equipment.

Just when the city was to discuss preparing construction bids, its architect, Ward Friszolowski, dropped a financial bombshell.

Instead of $3-million, the new building could cost between $3.6-million and $4-million.

Originally the new City Hall was to cost $2.8-million. The design included a large council chamber that could also serve as a community center, and more space for administration offices and the Police Department.

The present City Hall was built in 1959, is too small, does not meet handicapped requirements, and has a roof that leaks in even light rainstorms.

"It's not a happy message I have brought here," Friszolowski told the council Thursday. "To get the price down to $3-million, you may have to make decisions that will not meet your long term goals."

Citing escalating costs fueled by an "extremely busy" construction market and sharp increases in building materials prices, he recommended the city wait a few months to seek bids.

"This is very unfortunate," said Mayor Rudy Davis as he began slashing the proposed 12,000-square-foot floor plan.

Among the areas he proposed eliminating was a separate locker and shower room for female police officers.

"Every time we get female officers, they seem to go away. They just don't work well in a male environment," Davis said, proposing one unisex locker room. "The door can be locked if there is a female officer, they can be in there one at a time," he said.

He also proposed cutting the size of the new council chambers by about 20 percent and dropping the ceiling from 18 feet to 12 feet. Other proposed space-saving cuts included "duplicate" conference rooms, offices and bathrooms.

"I know it's hard. I know it's tough. I know the city manager is against it. But we have other significant capital projects we have to fund in the future," Davis said. Among those projects are street resurfacing, repairing or replacing the bridge at Harrison Street, and possible purchasing county-owned land for parking at the municipal complex.

"I still have real misgivings about the overall cost of this project," said council member Richard Crowl. "We are all very concerned about how the taxpayers are going to react. But if the city wants a police department and professional city management, you have to have the infrastructure to do that."

City Manager Reid Silverboard urged the council to let the architects decide how and where to cut space to save money. He called Davis' proposed cuts "unworkable."

At the start of the special meeting, Silverboard took the council on a tour of the existing City Hall, police station and public works building. He pointed to "very poor" work spaces, a "cramped" police facility, and the extensive records, supplies and equipment that need storage space.

At one point, council member Lynn Rives suggested the decision on how much to spend on the new City Hall could be made by residents in a citywide referendum.

In the end, the council voted unanimously to delay a decision on construction, to have the architects review possible cost savings, and to put alternative plans on the city television broadcast.