TARPON SPRINGS — Months into plans to renovate the city’s Cultural Center, officials are still wrangling with the question of whether to repair or replace the windows.
After receiving numerous emails from residents, city commissioners decided to table a discussion at a recent meeting and re-evaluate the question.
The city announced last August plans to renovate the center, at 101 S Pinellas Ave. It was City Hall from 1915 until 1987, when City Hall was moved to the former home of Tarpon Springs High School, a much larger complex on E Pine Street.
Soon after the Aug. 15 City Commission meeting, the city submitted renovation plans to the city’s Heritage Preservation Board. The board approved all aspects, except replacing the windows.
According to the minutes of the Jan. 8 Heritage Preservation Board meeting, former Mayor Anita Protos told board members she was appalled the plan called for replacing the windows rather than repairing them.
Cyndi Tarapani, elected vice chair of the preservation board at the Jan. 8 meeting, said she liked all the work being proposed, except replacing the windows.
City Manager Mark LeCouris said at February commission meeting that a city consultant, Atelier Engineering Construction, had concluded replacing the windows would be better for the long-term preservation of the building. The windows have been a contributing factor to moisture damage, according to LeCouris.
The negative public reaction has the city exploring other options, LeCouris said.
The repair-versus-replace re-evaluation will raise the amount the city is paying Atelier Engineering by $2,200, to $51,687 from $49,487, the city manager said.
After the re-evaluation, the city will resubmit the window and exterior project to the Heritage Preservation Board, LeCouris said.
Tarapani, a former Clearwater city planner, said replacement would be more expensive and suggested the city issue another request for proposals.
Protos said she is convinced the existing windows can be repaired and urged the city to seek the guidance of historic preservation experts.
Costa Vatikiotis, a former Tarpon Springs city engineer and city manager, said it comes down to cost.
"I’m not sure I understand what is going on," Vatikiotis said. "What I do understand," he added, is that the RFP provided no information provided on how to restore the windows.
The original renovation plan put the cost of replacing the windows at $1.7 million, or $15,000 per window, Vatikiotis said. He called those cost figures "pretty absurd."
"There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s cheaper to refurbish a window, than replace it," Vatikiotis added.