Belleair Beach Building Committee Pressing Forward With City Hall Plans
by Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BEACH - Bringing to birth the new city hall may result in the longest gestation period on record for such projects and given this, the Building Committee met last Friday in an effort to clear the decks and push ahead.
This has always been first and foremost in the planners' minds but it is particularly apt now because, according to those who know, it is a buyers' market on the construction scene these days.
And that means that by moving with some acceleration now the city could get favorable prices and performance from contractors.
Rob Baldwin, a member of the City Council who heads up the Building Committee, is in the construction business himself and is in a unique position to make guiding decisions for the Belleair Beach project.
The committee laid out an extensive and all-inclusive agenda for its meeting September 28 and its goal was to try to speed up the process of moving forward.
One thing that has gummed up the works was the discovery of an easement to Verizon that necessitated a possible change in plans of precisely where to locate the new building.
This came about because when the land was examined early on for the location of the new building the area known as the "water tower" was listed as county owned. Because that was not coming into play at that time, no further inquiry was held.
But then plans were changed and the location of the building was set farther east (what is now the parking lot) on the "water tower" land which, in the meantime, had been purchased from the county.
It was at that point that the Verizon easement came to light.
Now the committee is attempting to come to some sort of agreement with Verizon and at the same time collect all the information it can to avoid any more "surprises."
A possible problem could come with Cedar Drive residents. The city bought some property on Cedar Drive for possible use by the public work department and Cedar Drive residents are expressing concerns about how this will affect their street.
The target now is to construct a 10,000 square foot building for less than $3 million. Modifications have to made because there no longer needs to be space for a police department.
Harvard Jolley Cleese, the architects who have been in on the planning from the beginning (going back five years or so), may do a re-design once the City Council on the Building Committee's recommendation decides on how to proceed.
There are several options. There could be an open request for quotes from contractors, come up with a design and then engage a contractor or have a design and construction done on a turnkey basis with a fixed price.
Coming off Friday's meeting the inclination seemed to be to go with a re-design by Harvard Jolley Cleese. The committee will meet again November 1 and plans to meet on a monthly basis, just prior to a council meeting so that decisions can be locked in quickly.
The committee is looking at a completion date in March, 2009. That is just less than 18 months away.
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