Price Comparisons Bolster Largo Plea for Advisory Board
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - People who read newspapers know that very often there is news to be found in the advertisements. So it is with the St. Petersburg Times of June 26 where on Page 7B these nuggets were unearthed -
A home at a project called Gamble Creek Estates & Preserve in Parrish at $289,400 or as it was listed, $91.52 a square foot (including the lot), and another home at Country Meadows at $306,400 or $108.15 a square foot, with a half-acre lot included. Both locations are in the Bradenton area.
Largo is paying something like $383 a square foot for the new Community Center on the land (8.5 acres) given to it by the Goodman Group, which operates Palms of Largo.
The arithmetic is simple enough. The new building is 30,000 square feet. The total cost, according to city figures (borrowed money, by the way), will be $11,500,000.
The $383 square foot price is for construction alone.
And keep in mind, much of the heavy-duty construction in this building was pre-fabricated. Walls and the like were trucked in and then set up. Unlike labor-intensive block and stucco walls.
A prime responsibility of the City Commission, which rules on all final expenditures, is to make sure the city is getting full value for the taxpayers' dollars it lays out.
At $383 is the city getting full value for the new Community Center? Is 3 1/2 times and 4 times the square foot cost between some residences in Manatee County and a public structure in Largo reasonable?
The figures strongly support an idea put forth by Commissioner Curtis Holmes after he objected to the square foot costs of the Community Center - "This building shouldn't cost more than $200 per square foot - the city should have a construction advisory board."
According to Holmes this would be a simple enough proposition and would cost the city nothing and have the benefit of perhaps saving the city money and the safeguard of having expert opinion rendered on projects the city undertakes.
Under Holmes's proposal the board would be made up of several citizens who have experience in the engineering and construction fields. The board would look over the basic ingredients of any construction project and give pertinent advice to the commission.
Note that the proposed board would give its consultancy to the commission, not to city staff, not to city engineers.
While the commission is responsible for spending, it oversees and puts its imprimatur on projects in many cases that the members cannot possibly have competent experience or knowledge of.
Thus, in the Holmes view, a competent board would give the commission invaluable advice, shorn of any interest other than the bare practicality of a proposed project and its costs.
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