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Belleair Beach ready to build its new City Hall

BELLEAIR BEACH — City Council members, armed with golden shovels and wearing hard hats, will mark the official groundbreaking of a new $3.3-million City Hall on Monday.

The old 1950s-era City Hall was torn down last spring. It had deteriorated to the point that whenever it rained, the leaky roof forced strategic placement of buckets and pails to catch the dripping water.

Today, the site on the southwest side of the Belleair Beach Causeway has been cleared and prepared for construction to begin.

On Sept. 12, Honors Contractors Inc. pulled a building permit for the 10,000-square-foot building. The contractor, who recently completed a new library in Oldsmar, expects to complete construction in about a year.

Once completed, the City Hall will have to be furnished at an additional $100,000 cost, according to City Manager Nancy McCollum. The new building will be about 2,000 square feet larger than the old City Hall and will include staff offices, including space for the sheriff's deputies that patrol the city and space for a code enforcement officer. The council chambers will double as a community hall and include a small kitchen. A large conference room is also included.

Monday, following the groundbreaking ceremony, the City Council is scheduled to discuss and possibly decide on a replacement for the public works storage building. The original building adjacent to the old City Hall was torn down.

Until the new City Hall is completed, the council will meet in the garage of the Cedar Drive home purchased by the city last year. Inside, the living and dining areas and two bedrooms are split into office and desk space for McCollum, the city clerk, and the city treasurer, as well as other city staff and the on-duty sheriff's deputy.

It has taken years for the city to get to this point.

Building designs changed several times over the years as officials tried to reduce costs.

In 2001, a building steering committee drew up initial plans and estimated a new city hall would cost between $1.2-million and $1.8-million.

By 2005, building costs had escalated to nearly $3-million, even though the disbanding of the city's police department significantly reduced the space needed in the new building.

The city eventually borrowed $3-million to build the new structure, but costs continued to rise for a variety of reasons, including $200,000 needed to drive underground piling supports and $31,000 to protect underground telephone cabling buried in an easement owned by Verizon and located on the building site.

In July, the council voted to eliminate a new public works facility from the project because of its projected $250,000 cost. Now the city is considering spending about $75,000 for a "structure" that would protect public works vehicles and equipment, such as portable generators, tractors and mowers. The department staff will have offices in the new city hall.

The city has yet to determine the source of the additional $300,000 in construction costs, McCollum said.

Belleair Beach ready to build its new City Hall 10/04/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 5, 2008 9:40am]

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