Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Madeira Beach taking first step toward new City Hall, fire station

MADEIRA BEACH — Debate over the look and cost of a new City Hall will begin in earnest Tuesday during a special town hall presentation to the public.

The 7 p.m. meeting may be the first of many before details of a now-estimated $9 million project that would replace not just the aging City Hall, but the fire station and possibly the city's nearby recreational complex. Building just the City Hall and fire station would cost about $5.5 million.

"You have a very low millage rate and no debt. You also have cash resources," Jeff Larson, the city's financial consultant, hired to investigate ways to finance the project, said earlier this month.

The city has about $1.5 million in annual nonproperty tax revenues it could pledge toward financing a 30-year bond for the project.

The projects are too large to finance through a bank, he said, unless the city were to just rebuild the City Hall and fire station, and contribute some of its reserves to bring the bank loan below $5 million.

Larson recommended the city consider contributing about $3.3 million from its reserves to reduce the total project debt and spend no more than $300,000 annually to pay off that debt.

Another option would be to secure a bank loan for the City Hall and fire station (Phase 1) and rebuild the recreational complex later with another loan.

The maximum term for a bank loan is about 15 years, according to Larson.

The commission must also factor in other capital projects it would like to do in the next few years. They include improving the city's stormwater system, repaving streets, putting utilities underground along Gulf Boulevard, renovating the city marina, and planned upgrades to the beachfront Archibald Park.

"There is quite a bit of infrastructure that has been neglected in the city," said Commissioner Robin Vander Velde.

Concerns expressed by residents attending the March 12 meeting were mixed.

Some wanted to be assured that the upgrades to the recreational complex were not excluded, others wanted a less expensive City Hall and fire complex.

The current 1950s-era City Hall is badly deteriorating with roof and window leaks, mold, air-conditioning failures, and even fire hazards in the fire department portion of the building.

Federal rules prevent any more than $400,000 —- not enough to correct all these problems — to be spent on the existing building, which is seven feet below flood plain.

Current plans call for a 9,500-square-foot City Hall, a, 8,050-square-foot multipurpose structure and a 7,900-square-foot fire station.

The new City Hall complex presented previously by architects called for floor to ceiling windows for waterfront views from the City Hall's offices, a multipurpose room and fitness center. The commission chambers would be at the center of the City Hall complex.

A covered boardwalk around the City Hall would create an outside deck facing the waterfront that could be used for special events.

The multipurpose portion of the proposed complex includes a fitness center to be used by both fire fighters and the public.

The existing fire station would remain in place during construction to prevent any lapse in fire services.

The new fire station's first floor includes offices and engine bays, with living quarters on the second.

"Everybody agrees we need a new City Hall," resident June Mohns said. "I am concerned about the $300,000 debt service and that we will not have enough money left in the pot to get the other projects we have put off for years and years."

City Manager Shane Crawford stressed that no plans for the design of the new City Hall are locked in place.

"There is plenty of time to mold it," he said.

That is the major purpose of Tuesdays' special town hall meeting, which will probably be the first among many before the project is finalized. The city's architects, Wannemacher Jensen Architects and representatives of Hennessey Construction, will be present.

Comments
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman and the coac...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

CLEARWATER —The city’s proposed $79.7 million overhaul of the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facilities depends on getting $40 million in bed taxes from Pinellas County.But records show even if county officials wanted to bankroll the Phillies...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Hillsborough commissioners approve referendum on making county officers non-partisan

Hillsborough commissioners approve referendum on making county officers non-partisan

TAMPA — The debate over whether "Rep" or "Dem" should be on the ballot alongside the name of candidates for sheriff or property appraiser is now in the hands of Hillsborough County voters.Hillsborough County commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to hold ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

TAMPA — Mortar & Pestle, a fledgling Seminole Heights eatery with a mom-and-pop pharmacy theme, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Seacoast Bank was listed as the creditor with the largest unsecured claim: $1.4 million.The restaurant...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Column: It’s time for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to process concealed weapons licenses

It is hard to believe that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs didn’t discover for a year that an employee could not log into an account needed to see results of background checks that examined, among other things, whether applicants f...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Column: I survived a suicide attempt and here’s what you should know

Column: I survived a suicide attempt and here’s what you should know

Twenty-five years ago, I was a reporter at WTSP-TV, out in the field covering Tampa Bay’s Independence Day celebrations. I expected an easy assignment talking about families and fireworks. Then the newsroom called with an urgent message: I needed to ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

TAMPA — The contractors arriving at the Brandon home thought they were meeting with a potential customer. They were wrong.In fact, the would-be clients were undercover detectives and the contractors, lacking a license to ply their trade, left the hom...
Updated: 5 hours ago
As Border Patrol searches its buses, Greyhound is pulled into immigration uproar

As Border Patrol searches its buses, Greyhound is pulled into immigration uproar

He was a 12-year Miami resident originally from Trinidad, taken off a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by U.S. Border Patrol agents in January.She was a 60-something Jamaican national who had just met her granddaughter for the first time, w...
Updated: 5 hours ago