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Trash, labor shortage delay center's opening

Lack of brick masons and an unexpected landfill postpones the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new East Pasco administration building.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


DADE CITY -- Some hidden surprises and a regional labor squeeze have delayed the scheduled opening of Pasco County's newest administration building.

The $5.75-million building was scheduled to open early this summer, but Assistant County Administrator Dan Johnson said Thursday the building won't be complete until October, with a ribbon cutting set for Oct. 17.

Johnson said builders were surprised last year when they unearthed mounds of the city's old junk under the future parking lot and retention pond. The area was apparently a landfill in the 1920s and '30s, he said.

Much of the junk had been burned before it was buried and could be pushed aside, but items too bulky to move or deemed potentially hazardous had to be disposed of at legal landfills, Johnson said. None of the debris was found under the site of the new administration building.

Cleaning up the mess cost the county time and about $150,000.

Then, this summer, a shortage of qualified brick masons slowed construction again. The two-story building has an all-brick exterior, and with workers hard to come by and competition from private construction projects in Tampa, the work has been slow, Johnson said.

The new building, dubbed the East Pasco Government Center, will include 38,000 square feet on each of the two floors, with room for the tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, some court offices, county finance and personnel records.

The delay in completing the building will also slow a planned $7-million restoration of the courthouse, as elections and tax offices may not be able to move immediately because of upcoming elections and tax notices, Johnson said.

When the constitutional and administrative offices are out of the old building, two doors down, crews will start gutting the courthouse.

The old courthouse will get a new courtroom and expanded offices for the state attorney and public defender, in addition to new carpeting, a fire-suppression system and a more secure entrance, Johnson said. Rebuilding the interior will cost more than construction of a new building because of the demolition and cleanup required before work can begin, Johnson said.

"Construction is relatively clean. Nothing's there. You go to the site and you build," Johnson said. "In renovations, you're going in and ripping stuff out, from carpet to ceiling. Theoretically, you're going right down to the shell in many areas. You're pretty much gutting those areas."

Despite some rumors around the courthouse, there are no plans to enclose the courtyard, Johnson said.

Work on the renovation is expected to take 18 months, beginning in December or January.

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