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Clearwater leaders vote to keep aging City Hall open

Clearwater’s 1960s-era City Hall building needs at least $500,000 in repairs, including work on the roof and the elevators.

Times photo (1998)

Clearwater’s 1960s-era City Hall building needs at least $500,000 in repairs, including work on the roof and the elevators.

CLEARWATER — The city won't be moving out of City Hall after all.

To cut costs, Clearwater leaders had considered moving City Hall's offices into part of the 90,000-square-foot Clearwater Main Library.

The 1960s-era City Hall building needs at least $500,000 in repair work, while the spacious, modern library opened just six years ago.

However, the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to keep City Hall open. Council members decided that moving its functions into the library wouldn't work well.

"This building is not perfect, but it is a better City Hall than we can make out of what we can do at the library," said Mayor Frank Hibbard. "I think we will be here well beyond 10 years, and so we're going to have to spend some capital dollars just to make this building safe."

Others on the board agreed.

Even council member Paul Gibson, who had been leaning in the other direction, ended up voting to keep City Hall open after city library director Barbara Pickell said there's no unused space in the main library.

The cash-strapped city could have saved about $300,000 a year by no longer paying for City Hall's operating costs.

It also could have avoided spending about $500,000 for needed repairs to the aging building — work on the roof and the elevators, as well as painting and carpeting.

Instead, council members chose a different strategy to save money. They voted to include City Hall in a series of Clearwater buildings that the city is hiring Honeywell to equip with modern, energy-efficient air-conditioning, lighting and other equipment. The intent is to save money on power bills over the long run.

The city had Honeywell do the same thing at the Long Center last year, and it has been pleased with the results. It expects to save $75,000 a year at City Hall this way.

Mostly, officials decided this week that they just weren't willing to abandon City Hall.

"City Hall is a symbol that people recognize," Clearwater resident Renata St. Lawrence told the council Wednesday night. "When that symbol disappears, part of your city will disappear with it."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

Other council action

The Clearwater City Council also voted to do the following:

• Spend $455,700 from the city's parking fund to renovate the Clearwater Beach lifeguard building just south of Pier 60. A third floor will be added.

• Name council member John Doran as vice mayor for the next year.

• Appoint Mayor Frank Hibbard to Pinellas County's Tourist Development Council, replacing former council member Carlen Petersen.

Clearwater leaders vote to keep aging City Hall open 04/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 7:56pm]
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