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Largo officials ponder options for ailing City Hall

LARGO — City officials spent $7.9 million a little more than a decade ago to remodel the former Aegon office complex at 201 Highland Ave. into a new headquarters for city government.

The assumption then, said Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert, was "we'd remain in the building for a considerable period of time."

But it turns out the building now used for City Hall may last only 10 more years.

At a work session Tuesday night, city commissioners heard detailed reports about the building's current condition (not good), and what would need to be done to repair or replace it (either way, spend millions of dollars).

According to public works director Brian Usher, the list of City Hall's ailments is long.

The roof leaks. There is almost no insulation between the roof and ceiling tiles. The generators are military surplus units that are more than 30 years old and vulnerable to storm flooding. In some sections of the building's second story, the floor is bearing so much weight that there is a moratorium on bringing in new filing cabinets.

Many of the problems were revealed in an architect's study last year.

"It suddenly became clear there were issues beyond just the face of the building," Usher told commissioners.

If the city were to repair some of the major problems, such as shoring up structural supports to meet current wind load standards, the construction would trigger requirements to meet certain other building codes — for example, making bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They currently don't comply.

Commissioners must decide whether to repair all of the problems and commit the city to remaining in the current City Hall, or do just enough to get by until money becomes available for a new City Hall.

Only one current commissioner, Harriet Crozier, was serving when the decision was made in the late 1990s to move City Hall out of downtown and into the former Aegon complex.

"Did we not do our due diligence to know some of these things?" Crozier asked.

Apparently, Schubert said, some issues may have been under-reported.

On Tuesday, commissioners settled on a solution that would re-locate computer servers, which are overloading the floor in City Hall, and replace the roofs of the Police Department and City Hall at a cost of about $5 million.

In about a decade, the city would build a new City Hall for about $12 million on a site to be determined. The Police Department would stay where it is in a building behind the current City Hall.

The Penny for Pinellas sales tax would have to be used to pay for a new City Hall. But with Penny funds already committed to other projects for the foreseeable future, the city has to keep the current building in operation, said Mayor Patricia Gerard.

"It has to last at least 10 years," she said.

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

Largo officials ponder options for ailing City Hall 02/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 26, 2011 3:30am]
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