By Leo Coughlin
And now the city hall cum community center in Belleair Beach is a reality and what a history its genesis has been.
Some call it an overblown Taj Mahal. Others, no doubt, have chests thrust out with pride that their dream, their pride and joy has come into being.
When it began - it seems so long ago now - Bert Cutler was the chief drum beater. He was on the City Council then and a new city hall was his dream.
In the beginning, a two story building, elevated well off the ground, was envisioned with the second floor to be a gathering place for fun and hire with a veranda that would overlook the sparkling waters of the Intracoastal Waterway.
What has been produced, finally, is of much less grandeur than Cutler had in mind.
But the idea for a new building never died.
Committees were formed, regular meetings were held, the council was coaxed into approving procedures like getting an architect involved, initial plans drawn, money appropriated, a loan made.
And, inevitably, what it all started out has gradually changed and was modified and what was going to be grand and some thought extravagant become scaled down and more utilitarian.
Some still think what Belleair Beach is winding up with is extravagant.
There was always the money question and the council proceeded carefully and with deliberation and prudence on this. The money was there to pay for things even though much of it was borrowed.
There were some jogs in the road because, as we all know too well, hard times came upon us in the last couple of years and you can bet that created a lot of sleepless nights and cold sweats - and several sessions of revisiting the drawing board.
The old building, dating from 1950 and which had a marvelous "Florida" look - the way Florida looked before the state, and particularly Pinellas County, became inundated with folks from up north - was eventually torn down.
As to those who came and stayed, who could blame them for coming here? This is the best place in the world to live. Its good points are too numerous to mention. If you don't know that, see ya later.
When the original city hall was razed, the city government and its functions made do with the equivalent of camping out. City Manager Nancy Gonzalez, lately McCollum, and her squad soldiered through.
You can bet they're happy now, moving in this week to a brand spanking new city hall.
Those trucks you may have seen this week pulling up to the new building were delivering furniture. Moving can be a dismal or exciting time, depending on who you are and the circumstances. In this case, you can bet it's exciting and like the building of Rome cannot be accomplished in one day.
So the loading of furniture, equipment and what-not into the building may still be going on next week. And city business will go on.
As well as being a government center and meeting place for the City Council, the city hall/community center will be a general gathering place for residents and, officials hope, a profit center, so to speak.
That is, the council room will be available for rent to groups for functions. Rental rates have not yet been established and will be taken up by the council next month.
The absolute brand-new patina will be off the building when an open house and ribbon cutting is held October 22.
That should be a gala event, especially for those who worked over the years to bring the new building to fruition.
And one hopes, guys like Bert Cutler and Dick Williams, will be specially invited.
They had a lot to do with the birthing.
Return to Current Edition