The dream of a spanking new city hall in Belleair Beach may have sprouted wings and be flying away.
The question now is if the taxpayers of this little village, calling itself a city in one of the world's greatest examples of stretching a description, will tolerate the expenditure of $4 million - and maybe more - to fulfill the dream of a couple of high rankers in the city?
A new city hall has had long gestation period and at the latest checkup it was very close to abortion.
What started as a modest $2.8 million construction plan, with a nice and neat $3 million loan already arranged, has ballooned into a bloated $3.6 million outlay and indications that the price will go higher.
Had an even more modest plan been laid out, costing considerably less, but still fully functional, that city hall dream might already have come true.
After all, nearby Belleair Bluffs built its very attractive and very functional building for something like $1 million.
A showplace was envisioned. A no-place may be the reality. All of the frills, extras, accoutrements will, of necessity, be cut back because the City Council has directed the architectural firm and construction advisor, Harvard Jolly Cleese, to cut $1 million from possible costs.
The word is that when it became apparent that costs were zooming up, up, up, Rudy Davis sharpened his pencils, got out his protractor and ruler and started re-designing (read downsizing the plans for the new building).
At its meeting a couple of weeks ago, City Council members were described as "stunned" by the news that the price of the building had gone up by at least $1 million.
Members of the council should not have been stunned if they were reading the mighty Clearwater Gazette. Just about everything they learned at that meeting from Ward Friszolowski, the architect, had been laid out in these pages many weeks ago.
Having reported this dire news, those in the know were just waiting for this ticking time bomb to come to the attention of the city manager, mayor and members of the council.
The tendency very often, as the historical record will vividly illustrate, is to shoot the messenger. That has been tried already in Belleair Beach and came to embarrassing and humiliating failure.
Oh, the sachems in Belleair Beach were tipped off to the bad news a long time ago, but they firmly clasped their hands over their eyes and ears and blocked out all that unpleasant stuff.
Hey, it's not their fault that prices of steel and concrete have gone up because of demands in re-building and repairing devastated areas like New Orleans and the north Gulf Coast and the messiness in Iraq.
The idea of a new city hall has been kicking and squalling for years - yes, literally for years.
Bert Cutler, then a member of the council, was a prime mover and shaker for the new building. He is the one who put together and quarterbacked the citizens committee, who pushed for meetings, who kept the flame alive, who started the slush fund to give financing of the new building a leg up.
Cutler must now sit in his lair and bemoan all the foot dragging that has gone on. Because it is that which has driven the price up.
Changes in plans now for the new city hall would not be anything new as an experience. Original plans called for a virtual Taj Mahal. The whole plans aspect has been on a roller coaster. Now even more radical changes seem to be necessary.
Now the move is to wait and do nothing.
But you can bet there is some weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Someplace in Belleair Beach.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition