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Holmes' proposal for Largo data center not a hit with commissioners

Commissioner Curtis Holmes calls need for new building “dubious.”

Commissioner Curtis Holmes calls need for new building “dubious.”

LARGO — City Commissioner Curtis Holmes doesn't want the city to build a new information technology center to house its computer servers. But a tactic he used to bring attention to his position seems to have fallen flat.

At the Feb. 5 City Commission meeting, Holmes, who has been a commissioner since 2009, got up from his seat on the dais during the citizen comments portion of the meeting. He walked down to the lectern where members of the public stand to speak to commissioners for up to three minutes each.

Commissioner Holmes turned into Citizen Holmes.

"Good evening, mayor and commissioners,'' he began. "What you have in front of you is a written text on why I think the $3 million Internet technology building really isn't needed.''

Holmes contends that construction of a new building to house the city's computer servers near the library on Central Park Drive is not only unnecessary, but "dubious.''

Instead, he proposed moving the equipment to the city's Emergency Operations Center on Highland Avenue next to the police station. In particular, the second floor could be reconfigured to "easily accommodate IT server needs,'' he said.

"Several years ago, we spent a rather substantial sum reinforcing the Emergency Operations Center. It's already designed to withstand (a large storm), it has power backup, a communication system, IT resources, and the second floor is out of flood zone and much more,'' Holmes said.

After three minutes, a buzzer sounded. Holmes went back to his seat among the rest of the commissioners. No one said a word about his presentation.

On Monday, Holmes remained frustrated that commissioners haven't responded to his proposal.

"When you think of what I laid out for them and the way we're out spending money on this stuff … we just don't need this building, and I was at least expecting some comments from them. But, there was none.''

Mayor Pat Gerard agrees with Holmes on one point: "After he spoke, I did not have a comment."

Gerard is not sure why Holmes chose to leave the dais where commissioners sit during meetings and go down to the lectern to speak during the citizen comments portion of the meeting. He could have stayed in his chair and presented the same information at the end of the meeting, when commissioners get a chance to speak about anything on their minds.

"I couldn't tell you why he would choose to do it that way and limit himself to three minutes, when he could have spoken more at the end — other than there were more people in the room,'' she said.

About Holmes' point that the servers could be put in the EOC, Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert said that even if there were room, putting them there wouldn't be a good move.

"First, (the EOC) is in an area that is subject to flooding, and second, the building would require extensive renovations,'' Schubert said.

The City Commission has debated for months where to relocate the servers, which are now in City Hall, which is not a hurricane-resistant building. The commission recently decided to build a center on Central Park Drive that could cost around $3 million.

"At the last work session, we sent designers back to the drawing board with questions," Gerard said. "We are still waiting to determine if the new building is possible (at that location),'' she said.

Piper Castillo can be reached at pcastillo@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4163.

Holmes' proposal for Largo data center not a hit with commissioners 02/19/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 5:29pm]

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