BELLEAIR BEACH - City officials are hastily revising their plans for a new city hall because of the soaring costs - a development that was reported in these pages some weeks ago.
The latest City Council meeting last Wednesday weighed the projected cost - $3.6 million and maybe going higher - against the reaction by the public.
Costs could go to $4 million based on current projections.
The architect and developer of the building has been asked to devise ways to cut costs, including reducing the square footage from the now planned 12,500.
Of course, that kind of cutting runs into a sort of logical cannibalism - that is, if the square footage is cut too severely, the effectiveness of the city hall is reduced and the question becomes why do it in the first place.
There has to be some irreducible minimum in terms of space. Other cuts could come in amenities, but then nobody wants a cement block, strictly utilitarian building with no charm.
One idea from the June 28 meeting, according to one authoritative city hall source, was to hold off for six months on the hopeful expectation that prices for construction materials may come down.
That could be so much whistling in the dark.
A former member of the council, Ken Lucci, who resigned March 15, has pointed out that too many "extras" may be driving up the cost of the building.
He spoke of the number of people working in the building and the allocation of some of the space. For example, current plans call for a private office for the police chief.
Good enough. But there is also one for the sergeant. There is also a private office for the code enforcement officer, who one would think would be on the road most of the time given the nature of the job.
Another office would go to the assistant city manager, a job that seems to have "growed, just like Topsy," and was never in the planning when Belleair Beach switched its form of government last year to manager-council.
The thinking going into the new form of administration was that the manager would handle just about everything in the city. But one factor overlooked in all that planning was human nature and the ineluctable fact that any bureaucracy grows. That is as sure as the sun rising in the east.
Along with all that, Lucci pointed out that the new building as planned does not seem to have any garage space for city vehicles or equipment.
Instead, current planning had called for vehicles to be parked out in the open in a fenced in area, leaving the vehicles open to the elements of storms, wind, rain and hot sun.
Part of the reason for the escalating costs for the new building are because of steel and concrete which are needed in New Orleans and the north Gulf Coast where hurricanes have done devastating damage.
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