BELLEAIR BEACH - It appears that plans for a new city hall may be headed back to the drawing board as reports circulated that the projected minimum cost of the new building has zoomed to about $3.6 million.
What started out in the planning as a building that would cost on the order of $160 a square foot has now become, according to some sources, $300 a square foot.
That drives the cost, by these projections, from almost $2 million to $3.6 million.
And some of the citizenry in this city are not fully aware of what is unfolding despite efforts by city officials and advocates of the new building to get the word out.
Some comments from various citizens have produced the idea that if the city is going to take on a monumental project well over $3 million there ought to be a referendum on spending that kind of money.
This is a situation that cannot be put at the doorstep of Reed Silverboard, the city manager, who inherited the city hall project when he came aboard officially in March, 2005, when Belleair Beach changed its form of government.
And there was word in the past week or so, particularly from one highly placed city source, that Silverboard ranks high as a choice for the city manager job in Dunedin.
If he leaves Belleair Beach, the City Council will be back at square one in a hunt for a replacement.
On the city hall, the elevated cost is attributable to the accelerating costs of building materials, particularly steel and concrete.
The new $3.6 million cost, that may be more than Belleair Beach taxpayers want to take on, does not include furniture, fixtures, computers etc.
In many cities, the governing body is prohibited from taking on a capital expense of the magnitude that faces Belleair Beach, although Largo took on a $22 million library without a nod or by your leave from the taxpayers. It just happened at the whim of a City Commission despite the outcry of citizens.
It will be interesting to see if the Belleair Beach taxpayers become aware and aroused by an expenditure that, at latest estimates, could cost each woman, man and child in the city $2,250.
At least one member of the council thinks the city hall cost is too high and thinks the city should re-think the project and probably re-design the building.
That would upset some apple carts because Harvard Cleese Jolley, an architectural firm, has been involved in design for years and the council, in the latest development, had signed off on just about all the amenities with the new city hall.
So far, the city has made arrangements to borrow $3 million. Getting approval for another 20 percent above that just to meet construction costs might run into some snags.
On top of that, money would be needed for all the extras, which might be another couple of hundred thousand.
It appears the city hall project could go near $4 million to being it into reality.
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