MADEIRA BEACH — If everything goes well, the city could break ground on a new City Hall complex within the next nine to 12 months.
But a lot of questions must be answered first. Perhaps the most important is whether the City Hall, fire department and public works could be located at the present site at 300 Municipal Drive.
The commission unanimously agreed Tuesday to follow the recommendations of their new city manager, Shane Crawford, and consider all options before proceeding with any new building project.
By Friday, Crawford already was working on seeking proposals from architects who would study both the City Hall site and the existing public works/marina site on the south side of the Tom Stuart Causeway.
The architect would then recommend options for the commission to consider.
"It will probably be at least three months before we have an architect on board," Crawford said.
He wants the commission to hold "many public meetings" to make sure residents buy in to whatever it eventually decides to do.
Both the City Hall and the public works buildings are aging and deteriorating, requiring substantial money to repair.
"The public works building is in real rough shape, much worse than City Hall," Crawford said.
The building has two work bays and offices on the second floor. Crawford has moved all employees, except a part-time mechanic, out of the building for safety reasons.
For some time the commission has talked about building a high-and-dry boat storage facility and debated whether that would require the public works building and the city's garbage trucks to be moved to another site.
Several months ago, Interim City Manager Jim Madden had concept designs prepared combining a new City Hall, fire station and public works facility at the present City Hall site.
Crawford said the commission's decision to pursue final designs, made just weeks before he assumed management of the city, was not thought out enough.
"It makes sense to have a city center," Crawford told the commission. "But does it make sense to have a garbage storage facility over here right next to residential property?"
The City Hall site is on the edge of the city's commercial district and is adjacent to a number of condominiums and private homes.
Crawford said area residents do not want garbage trucks garaged in their neighborhood.
"This may be way the commission needs to go, but we need to hear from the people before making a decision," Crawford said. "There is confusion in the community, and that is a recipe for disaster right out of the gate."
"You will be spending $4-$7 million on this project, so it is very important to your community to have the answers," Crawford said.