KENNETH CITY — A split council voted to take the next step to renovating the police station by asking contractors to submit bids.
The decision went against the wishes of most residents who spoke during the meeting, asking that the project be delayed until after a town manager comes on board in early March. But other residents, and a majority of the council, said the project had been delayed long enough.
The condition of the police headquarters has been an issue since at least 2011 when the Pinellas County sheriff was twice called in to evaluate the department and its services. Among other things, the sheriff cited the shabby condition of the headquarters, which occupies 5,000 square feet of the Community Hall, 4600 58th St. N.
The council hired Spring Engineering from Holiday to develop plans a couple of years ago. But, when the plans were returned, officials found they'd spent about $4,800 on incomplete plans. They agreed to spend an additional $4,800 to have Spring add the necessary plans for the electrical, plumbing and other systems.
Those plans came before the council in November. Mayor Teresa Zemaitis questioned the proposed renovations, citing the cost of many of the fixtures and appliances. Among them — a $2,899 refrigerator, a $469 microwave, two wall-mounted TVs, a Dyson hand dryer ranging in price from $1,200 to $2,000, and a $247 "Yin Yang Wading Pool" drop-in sink by Kohler.
Other council members were blindsided by Zemaitis' critique, conceding they had not studied the details, only looked at the overall structural proposal. Residents asked the council to delay until after the town manager begins work. The council tabled the item but a majority agreed to hold a special workshop to discuss the issue and vote on it at a meeting Wednesday.
By Wednesday, not much had changed. Phil Redisch, the council member in charge of the renovations, said the bid would go out without the items that had been disputed. But he conceded no new plans had been drawn up. The existing plans still had the expensive items in them.
"There are no new plans. We just took out all the things that were misdirected," Redisch said. "I didn't bring another set. . . . Nothing has changed in those plans. . . . To go up and print out another set didn't make sense."
The items, he said, could be eliminated after the bids come in.
Zemaitis suggested waiting and holding another workshop after Redisch compiled a list of all fixtures and appliances. That way, she said, the council could decide in advance what items to remove from the bid.
But Redisch disagreed, saying the council had been working on the plans for "four years now." He accused Zemaitis of trying to delay for another couple of months.
"We're trying to get something moving. You're trying now to put it off for another two months, three months. I don't think that's correct," Redisch said.
He then apparently referred to a 2000 vote in which 68 percent of voters agreed to retain the Police Department rather than contract with the sheriff. Bill Smith was mayor at the time.
"The town voted not to have the sheriff come in. You wanted the sheriff to come in. Okay, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but we have the Police Department. It is here," Redisch said.
"The building has to be renovated and I think we have to start doing it, not put it off again and again and again. This is not what the public wanted. They wanted our own Police Department. They wanted us to go forward with this building. I think we have to do that right now."
"If we're going to talk about what the public wants," Zemaitis said, then the project should be delayed until the town manager is in place. Most of those who spoke at Wednesday's meeting and at the one in November wanted the manager to oversee the project and plans.
Agreeing with Zemaitis were Ellen Dalbo and Barbara Roberts. Both asked that the council delay the bid process until March.
Dalbo, Roberts and Resdisch are running for the two open seats on the council in the March 11 election. The two top vote-getters will go into office.
The council agreed, with Zemaitis the only dissenting vote, to go ahead and bid the project in pieces. The structure will get one bid and the "appliances," another. It's unclear what is included under "appliances."
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450. Follow @ALindbergTimes on Twitter.