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St. Pete is building a $79 million police HQ. The roof is already leaking

The new $79 million St. Petersburg Police Headquarters is currently under construction at 1301 First Ave. N. But it already has a leaky roof. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Sep. 26, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — The city's new $79 million police headquarters, which is rising off First Avenue N, recently hit another snag.

This time, it was a damaged roof.

Workers were installing the roof when an issue was discovered with one of the layers, causing it to leak, said city spokesman Ben Kirby. Ajax Building Corp., the construction company in charge of the project, told city staff of the problem on Aug. 10.

Ajax President Bill Byrne told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday that the first layer of the roof was fixed this week and is now water tight. But the city said it is still working with the company to figure out what happened and what steps to take going forward.

Mayor Rick Kriseman's office believes the construction company should not let this issue delay completion of the project or increase its final cost.

"We expect the Construction Manager to fully correct this issue in a manner acceptable to the City and at no cost to the City," City Attorney Jacqueline Kovilaritch said in a statement the city sent to the Times regarding the roof issues. "The City will not accept a building that fails to comply with contractual specifications."

Kovilaritch and Kirby would not comment further on the issue, in case St. Petersburg and Ajax Building Corp. are unable to reach a resolution. The city could then take the company to court.

Byrne said crews have to wait for three days of dry weather before they can continue with the second layer, which should take about 2 to 3 months to complete.

"Now the first roof is water right, we're not experiencing water get into the building. " Byrne said. "It's not impacting the schedule at all ... I'm not thinking there's anything here all that unusual."

The city still expects the new headquarters to open in spring 2019.

The leaky roof is the latest issue to emerge with the construction site of one of the city's biggest infrastructure projects in years.

RELATED: Video: Falling crane barely misses man running for his life

A crane carrying a load at the construction site toppled over on April 5, officials said, sending workers scattering and narrowly missing one of them as it landed.

The other incident took place a month later on May 7 when a crane was moving a piece of concrete and the bracket failed, dropping a large load, said St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil. No one was injured in either incident at the site.

"We certainly want to keep our eyes on the progress and safety of the site," City Council member Darden Rice said. "It's unfortunate that something happened, but it's good it got caught and detected right away so we can ensure we're getting the brand new building we paid for."

Rice expressed concerns that the latest issue with the roof could result in a spat between architects and construction engineers to determine what exactly caused the problem and delay completion.

"While we don't want to gloss over this like it's nothing, these things do happen and there's a way to rectify it," she said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation into the April 5 crane incident, but the city has not yet received a copy of that report, Kirby said. The city said it did not produce any internal reports on issues at the construction site.

Work on the 167,519-square-foot headquarters started in April 2017. Once open, the modern building will give the police force up-to-date facilities for storing evidence and a parking garage that can shelter the department during a storm. The entire facility will be able to withstand a Category 4 hurricane, whereas the current police building is not rated at all.

The city also plans to spend $6.5 million to build a new police new shooting range using what's left of the old range at 1845 13th Ave. N in Woodlawn Park.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8779. Follow @cljohnst.

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