TREASURE ISLAND — City officials hope to take at least three outdated and repair-ridden buildings and transform them into a new administrative complex that would house City Hall and the police, fire and public works departments.
However, how to pay for the multimillion project is still a big question.
Recent bids came in at nearly $700,000 to replace City Hall and the police and fire departments' low-sloped roofs damaged by water intrusion and making minor inside repairs at City Hall.
"That would just get us by for another day," City Manager Reid Silverboard said.
So the city is putting together a plan for a new administration complex that also could include its Treasure Bay recreational facility and Treasure Island Community Center and city park.
A request for qualifications from architectural-engineering firms is expected to be ready in three weeks.
The firms would be expected to do an assessment of the current buildings and recommend whether to demolish and rebuild City Hall, police and fire departments and public works buildings at their current site on 108th Avenue, or consolidate the departments on a different site.
A parking garage also is being considered to help alleviate parking problems downtown, Silverboard said.
"It would offer public parking to accommodate the city's needs and possibly be done in a public-private partnership where businesses could purchase spaces," he said.
The city's aging concrete block and stucco buildings — all built in the 1950s — have had a number of renovations and repairs over the years costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to city records.
For example, the removal of an inside firing range at the police department in 2002 cost $700,000. More recently, new windows and lighting at City Hall in 2012 cost $75,000.
"We still have ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues and healthy building issues," Silverboard said. "These buildings have long passed their obsolescence."
If more repairs or renovations are made to existing buildings, there is a danger of encountering FEMA requirements that mandate flood standards be met if the cost of repairs exceeds 50 percent of the building's assessed value.
Using city-owned land would be the most economical method, Silverboard said, when considering building a new administration complex.
Sites under consideration include the current city complex on 108th Avenue, the Treasure Bay recreation facility on Paradise Boulevard, Gulf Front Park on Gulf Boulevard for a parking garage location and the city Community Center and park area on Park Place.
So far, officials are shying away from the question of how the project will be financed.
"It's too early. We haven't gotten that far," Silverboard said in response to a question about the possibility of a property tax increase to fund the project.
Mayor Robert Minning agreed, saying "it's time for a serious conversation about a new City Hall complex."
"We can no longer continue to throw money down a rat hole," he said. "The buildings are far beyond their useful life, and we're spending thousands. I'm sure taxpayers would say they want the highest and best use of their tax dollars."
Commissioner Alan Bildz says it all comes down to "how much does it cost and where will it come from."
Madeira Beach recently built a new $10 million city complex and developed some public-private partnerships to help fund the project.
Public works director Mike Helfrich said Tampa Bay area firms are being sought for site selection and developing a conceptual design, followed by an engineering design and construction management of the project.
"Before decisions are made, residents and businesses will have a say-so in where and how" the project will be done, he said.
In the next few months, commissioners will be asked to select a firm to initiate the preliminary analysis, Silverboard said.
"If all goes smoothly, we could start in 18 to 24 months," he said. Construction would take about a year.