Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Would a hurricane destroy Largo City Hall?

Largo City Hall was built in 1973, before Hurricane Andrew ushered in sturdier construction standards in Florida in 1992. City officials worry that the building and computer servers could be damaged in a storm.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Largo City Hall was built in 1973, before Hurricane Andrew ushered in sturdier construction standards in Florida in 1992. City officials worry that the building and computer servers could be damaged in a storm.

LARGO — Discussions by city officials earlier this year about building a new data center to house the city's computer servers centered on the necessity because the current location — City Hall — is vulnerable to storm damage. Even a Category 1 hurricane could damage or destroy it, they said.

This raises an unsettling question: What would happen if a hurricane hit Largo? Would City Hall survive?

There's not necessarily a simple answer to that question.

"As far as what actually happens, no one knows," Assistant City Manager Mike Staffopoulos said.

"It's all theory until the wind starts blowing," said Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert.

Computer models have shown that City Hall could be vulnerable to damage from high winds in a hurricane. The models also show that the building could be affected by flooding from the drainage channel that runs next to it.

There's no simple fix.

Why not reinforce City Hall to make it stormproof? That would be far too expensive, officials said.

It was 13 years ago that Largo's municipal government moved into the former Aegon office complex at 201 Highland Ave. just north of East Bay Drive. The 56,000-square-foot building that houses City Hall was built in 1973, well before 1992's Hurricane Andrew ushered in sturdier construction standards in Florida.

A couple of years ago, during discussions about replacing City Hall's roof, Largo officials looked into the price of strengthening the building by adding bracing to its support columns.

That turned out to be "cost-prohibitive," Staffopoulos said. It would cost millions.

"At that point," he said, "you may as well start looking at a new building."

So what would Largo leaders do if a hurricane knocked down City Hall?

In the short term, they would likely move many of the city's operations into the Largo Community Center, which is a lot sturdier. That building, at 400 Alt. Keene Road, opened in 2011 and is rated to withstand winds of up to 140 mph. It has a generator that could power the building for a week.

In a worst-case scenario, the city could also use space in the Largo Public Library, which opened in 2005, and the new Highland Recreation Center, which opened a few months ago. Both are far more hurricane-resistant than City Hall.

In the long term, Largo would rebuild City Hall if it were destroyed. The city has wind insurance.

In the meantime, city manager Mac Craig is hoping for the best. He notes that City Hall withstood 1985's Hurricane Elena, a Category 3 storm that stalled in the Gulf of Mexico for days and brutalized Florida's west coast before eventually making landfall near Biloxi, Miss.

The city has accordion shutters on hand to protect the building's windows. The City Hall campus also houses the Largo Police Department's headquarters and the city's Emergency Operations Center, both of which are more hurricane-resistant than City Hall.

One worry is that if a hurricane hit this season, the servers on the second floor could be endangered. They are the backbone for everything from the police dispatch system to the city's financial management.

The city's new $3 million data center, which is to be built across the street from the library, will be designed to withstand Category 5 winds. But it won't be finished until next summer, Schubert said.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151.

Would a hurricane destroy Largo City Hall? 08/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 1:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.