MADEIRA BEACH — Reacting to protests from a number of residents, city officials are backing off what one called "grandiose" plans for a new city hall, fire station and recreational complex.
Vice Mayor Robin Vander Velde has been inundated with phone calls and emails from residents questioning the scope of the project, she said Monday during a special meeting.
"We owe it to the residents and taxpayers to listen to them," Vander Velde said.
Until last week, the commission, including Vander Velde, has consistently approved planning for the larger-scale project.
"We are still not comfortable that everybody in the city is ready to pay $9 million," said Commissioner Nancy Oakley. "They are convinced we need a new city hall and fire department, but maybe not on as much of a grandiose scale."
At Vander Velde's urging, the commission decided not to authorize further architectural planning and instead more closely examine projected costs, which are expected to be updated by late January or early February.
"We are getting sticker shock," City Manager Shane Crawford said. "There is a divide here and we need to get on the same sheet of music. This will slow down the time line, but not a great deal. You need education. This is a huge decision."
When new costs are available, the commission plans to discuss the project again, examine financing options, schedule several town hall meetings, and possibly conduct a townwide mail-in survey.
"The town hall process can help this decisionmaking process," Jason Jensen of Wannemacher Jensen Architects said Thursday. "This is a unique opportunity for the city to take advantage of this waterfront site. It could be a true gem that sets Madeira Beach apart from all other communities if it is done right."
The most recent plans presented by Jensen call for floor-to-ceiling windows providing first-time waterfront views from the proposed city hall offices, multipurpose room and fitness center.
The commission chambers, placed at the center of the city hall complex, are flanked on either side by office and multipurpose spaces.
A covered boardwalk wrapping around the city hall creates an outside deck facing the waterfront that could be used for special events.
Parking spaces beneath the proposed environmentally friendly building allows more green space outside the building and along the water.
The multipurpose portion of the proposed complex includes a fitness center to be used by both firefighters and the public.
The existing fire station would remain in place during construction to prevent any lapse in fire services.
The new fire station's first floor includes offices and engine bays, with living quarters on the second where firefighters have the option of using a classic fire pole, an elevator and stairs to reach fire apparatus when answering calls.
The current 1950s-era City Hall is badly deteriorating.
The building is plagued with roof and window leaks, mold infestations, air-conditioning failures, and even fire hazards in the fire department portion of the building.
Federal rules prevent any more than $400,000 — not enough to correct all these problems —- to be spent on the existing building, which is 7 feet below flood plain.
Current plans call for a 9,500-square-foot City Hall building, an 8,050-square-foot multipurpose building, and a 7,900-square-foot fire station.
The most recent cost estimate for the city hall/fire station/multipurpose building complex range from $5.6 million to $6.2 million, depending on the options selected.
That cost jumps an additional $2.6 million for a new recreation center and renovated athletic fields requested by residents during an October town hall meeting attended by more than 100 people.
The new recreation center includes spaces that could be rented for parties, weddings, and other activities, open parkland along the waterfront, a softball field, a Little League field, and also a flexible multipurpose field that could be used for softball, Little League or other activities.
Jensen said the city could save significant money by constructing both the city hall and recreation center projects at the same time.
The city could spend about $3.5 million from reserves and finance the rest, keeping enough money in reserves to address other infrastructure needs and emergency needs, according to Crawford.
So far, the city has spent about $150,000 for surveys, code research, master planning, and architectural renderings. The next step in planning would cost about $172,000.