SEMINOLE — Council members unanimously approved spending up to $170,000 for engineering services necessary to build an Emergency Operations Center and Public Works office.
The Emergency Operations Center will replace the 16-year-old fire administration building at 11195 70th Ave. N, which was razed last week to make way for the new center. The Public Works administration building will go up across the street from the EOC.
Both structures will be built with Penny for Pinellas money and will be able to withstand a low-end Category 5 hurricane, which has winds of 155 mph and above.
Seminole officials originally planned to build both the Public Works building and a senior center that would double as an EOC. The senior center would have been built at City Park, not on the site of the fire administration building.
But officials said Amendment 1, which forced cuts in spending, caused them to shelve those plans. The city would have been unable to pay for staff for the senior center, so plans have been shelved until those employees can be afforded. But City Manager Frank Edmunds and the council still saw the need for an Emergency Operations Center that would remain standing after a severe storm. With an operating EOC, city staff could quickly help Seminole residents after a catastrophe.
The council approved a plan earlier this year to raze the fire administration building to make way for the EOC. The structure, at 10,605 square feet, was too large for the seven employees in the city's fire administration and too expensive to keep up — about $89,000 a year. Built of plastic foam with a coating of steel and stucco, the building was not weather-worthy, officials said.
The building was erected in 1992, before Hurricane Andrew ushered in new construction standards. It went up before Seminole took over fire protection for that area. That portion of the fire district was run then by a board, which decided to spend its money on a large building without much thought about the possible impact of a storm on its construction.
Had the building been more sound structurally, it likely would not have been razed, said Harry Kyne, Seminole's budget guru. That, combined with the expense, which could pay salaries for 1 1/2 firefighters, doomed the building.
The Seminole city employees who worked in the old building, including fire Chief Dan Graves, are now in City Hall.
Edmunds has said it is unclear how much the EOC and Public Works administration buildings will cost. The two are being designed now. The $170,000 cap the council voted on at last Tuesday's meeting will go to pay Tampa Bay Engineering for consulting on drainage designs, permitting and other engineering issues that arise while preparing the site plans.
If all goes well, construction could begin within a year and be completed in 2010.