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Roof oddity on Largo City Hall means rise in project cost

LARGO — This summer, the workers replacing the roof on City Hall noticed something strange as they tore away its surface. Toward the edge, instead of sloping down or staying flat, the roof ramped back up a few inches.

The otherwise flat roof apparently had been designed to pitch up at its edges, so rainfall would trickle back to a series of pipes and storm drains. Unfortunately for city finances, though, the people designing the new roof knew nothing about the design quirk.

Largo will have to spend an extra $220,000 on a redesigned roof after this discovery, the city staff told commissioners last week. The roof renovation was supposed to cost $806,000; with the new design and materials, it will top $1 million.

The four commissioners present at last week's City Commission meeting approved the spending (Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioners Robert Murray and Michael Smith were absent), but Commissioner Curtis Holmes had pointed questions for staff.

"Nobody looked at this ahead of time to figure out that … How in the world? … There are so many questions that this thing creates," Holmes said.

City facilities manager Glenn Harwood said there was no way for the staff to know about the design until the roof surface was torn away.

The roof's upward slope forced contractors to scrap the original design, Harwood said. The plan had been to replace the flat, leaking roof with a tapered roof that sent stormwater to a gutter system. A new design will incorporate the slope. Stormwater will flow back from the roof edge to a series of PVC pipes, which will drain water from the roof.

"The architect, the contractor, staff — none of us have ever encountered a situation like this," Harwood said later in the week. "That's what made this so difficult."

If City Hall was empty, Harwood said, the contractor could just tear the edge off the roof and build it anew. But that would leave the building partially exposed to the elements for a few weeks, which is not an option because City Hall needs to stay open through construction.

The staff tried to allay commissioner concerns about finances by noting that the new roof was originally budgeted last year at $1.5 million. The $806,000 price tag was a pleasant surprise. The extra money will come from the city's general fund.

"It's a hit, regardless, but it's a one-time hit," said Amy Davis, manager of the Office of Management and Budget.

The accounting talk didn't appear to make Holmes feel any better about the expense.

"A 25 percent increase in the price is substantial," he said.

Commissioners will vote for a second time on the new roof spending at their Nov. 6 meeting. The roof should be done by the end of the year, Harwood said.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or whobson@tampabay.com.

Roof oddity on Largo City Hall means rise in project cost 10/20/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 20, 2012 4:30am]
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