LARGO — After months of debate and considering multiple locations, the City Commission has finally decided where it will build its new data center.
Although the original choice was on a corner of Largo Public Library property, the center now will be built across the street from the library on a spot currently used by the city's parks division.
Because the data center was designed for the library property, the city will have to spend an additional $46,225 for FleishmanGarcia Architects to modify the plans for the parks division land.
Commissioners first began discussing a new data center almost a year ago after deciding that the computer servers, the backbone for everything from the police dispatch system to the city's financial management system, were not safe on the second floor of City Hall. Even a Category 1 hurricane could damage or destroy the City Hall building, the city staff determined.
Commissioners first approved a building site in the library parking lot on Central Park Drive. They reconsidered after nearby residents opposed the location, saying it would block their views of Largo Central Park.
So in January, commissioners asked the staff to determine whether the hurricane-hardened, 3,000-square-foot, $3 million data center could be built across Central Park Drive on a Cultural Center parking area next to the Historic Feed Store.
But since building there would consume needed parking spaces, FleischmanGarcia and the city staff determined the data center should be placed farther west, in an area used as a nursery and plant holding area for the parks division.
That's the location approved at last week's commission meeting by a 5-2 vote.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes, who voted against that location and previously called construction of a data center "dubious," said last week he wants the city to instead consider retrofitting its Emergency Operations Center on Highland Avenue and putting the servers there.
According to Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert, the EOC was ruled out early because it is in a flood zone.
Last week, Holmes got some support from Commissioner James Robinson. Remarking that Holmes "has a valid point," Robinson said he wanted to know the cost difference between building a new data center and retrofitting the EOC.
However, Holmes and Robinson were overruled by a majority of the commission.
After the meeting, parks director Greg Brown said having the data center on the new site would "not be a big imposition." Overall, he said, the data center is "better back on the parks site than impacting the look and parking for our very busy park.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.