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$3M DATA CENTER GETS OKAY

Construction will begin soon on the hotly debated facility that will protect Largo's computer servers.

The future is digital. Everything will done on computers.

With that in mind, Largo officials have long been discussing building a new data center to house and protect the city's computer servers.

Within a couple of weeks, construction crews will finally break ground on the $3 million project, now that a divided City Commission has approved its design and construction plans.

The data center has been a source of debate since the subject first came up a year and a half ago. Largo's elected officials and interested residents have argued about whether the new building is needed. They have debated its price and its location.

Why build it? Largo officials say the city's computer servers, the backbone for everything from the police dispatch center to the city's financial management system, are not safe in their current home on the second floor of City Hall. The servers are vulnerable to storm damage there, and there's no room to expand.

Commissioners recently voted 4-2 to approve the data center's final cost. The maximum price for the 3,000-square-foot building itself will be $2.25 million. The project's total cost is $3.1 million, including design, permitting, furniture and equipment.

Commissioners Curtis Holmes and Jamie Robinson voted no.

"I thought this was a bad idea when it was first proposed. My opinion has never changed," Holmes said at a recent commission meeting.

He suggested moving the servers to the city's Emergency Operations Center. "We can do this for a fraction of $3 million ... The EOC has virtually nothing in it now."

Other commissioners believe that it's necessary to protect the computer servers in a hurricane-proof building that would be 40 feet above sea level.

"I think the data center is desperately needed," Commissioner Robert Murray said. He figures that the city's computer functions will need to be expanded in the future.

Biltmore Construction will soon start building the data center behind the Largo Feed Store within Largo Central Park, in an area that's been used as a nursery and plant holding area for Largo's parks division. It's to be completed by next summer.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151.

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