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Data center's $1 million overrun irritates Largo officials

LARGO — In May, the city staff told commissioners a new data center will cost $3.1 million to build — $1.1 million more than the original estimate. Commissioners asked them to try to cut costs.

Last week, the staff came back with a new price tag: $3 million. Still $1 million over budget.

City commissioners agree the data center is needed. It will house the city's computer servers, the backbone for everything from the police dispatch system to the city's financial management system.

The servers currently sit on the second floor of City Hall, which might not survive a Category 1 hurricane. The new 3,000-square-foot data center should be able to withstand winds from a Category 5 hurricane.

However, commissioners are still a little ticked that the estimate was so far off. The architects led a PowerPoint presentation at Tuesday night's work session.

"What happened with our estimating?" Mayor

Pat Gerard later asked.

Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert said the comparison projects the staff used to develop the $2 million estimate were a few years old and apparently outdated.

The data center is being paid for with revenue from the Penny for Pinellas, a countywide sales tax used only for capital projects like Largo's new Highland Recreation Complex. So while the extra $1 million cost will not impact city spending in areas like police and fire rescue, it will affect what the city has left to spend on other capital improvements, like updating old facilities or building sidewalks.

Schubert assured commissioners that the penny tax revenue Largo is projected to receive can cover the extra $1 million, but that didn't allay Gerard's concerns.

"Not that we can do a whole lot about it now, but yeah, that bothers me, because it does impact what else we're going to be able to do," Gerard said.

The data center will be built at the southwest corner of the city library property, on part of the library's parking lot, near Central Park Drive. Construction is scheduled to begin early next year and finish by November 2013.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes asked the project architects if putting the building underground instead would save money, since designing it to withstand severe winds would not be necessary. The architects answered that, while the land near the library is high from an elevation standpoint, an underground data center would still be flood-prone.

Commissioner Harriet Crozier chided Holmes for even bringing up the idea.

"It was just a thought," he said.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or whobson@tampabay.com.

Data center's $1 million overrun irritates Largo officials 11/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, November 17, 2012 3:31am]
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