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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

City hall renovation project apparently stalled

Concerned about rising costs and unanticipated inspections, Anna Maria city commissioners are just about ready to dump the long-awaited city hall renovation project planned the past year by Mayor SueLynn.

Commissioners at their March 25 meeting said the cost is rapidly approaching $200,000, while the original budget amount was just over $150,000.

"It appears we are not looking at a complete package," said Commissioner Linda Cramer, after reviewing the latest total cost estimate of $185,900 from contractor Southern Cross Construction.

The commission originally budgeted $154,000 for the project, and recently increased that figure to $168,000.

But new problems and costs keep arising, said Cramer, and now she's concerned that a proper roof inspection wasn't done -- and that city hall might need a new roof.

A new roof wasn't part of the original scope of work, said architect Tom O'Brien, who has already been paid $12,000 for the plans. The original scope was for interior renovations only, he pointed out.

If the commission wants to add exterior remodeling or a new roof, that would require a new request for bids, O'Brien noted.

"Right now, it's a good price for interior renovations," he added, suggesting the commission could implement a second stage of improvements in the next budget cycle.

"Well, without a roof inspection I won't support this project," quipped Cramer.

Commissioner Carol Ann Magill agreed. "The costs keep going up and up and now it's $186,000, so I have a great concern about where we are going. I'm concerned how this has grown to nearly $200,000."

Even Commissioner Duke Miller, who has been a staunch supporter of the project, had reservations about the project after reviewing the latest cost estimate.

"We are already at $34,000 over the contract price from Southern Cross," he pointed out, and that doesn't include the $12,000 already paid O'Brien. At each discussion of renovations, additional costs keep arising.

"I was originally behind the project, but I don't like surprises. Now, we are looking at almost $50,000 in surprises. It's already 30 percent more than we were authorized to spend in the budget," Miller concluded.

Commissioner Dale Woodland is opposed to spending any more for city hall renovations than the $154,000 in the original 2003-04 budget, including the architect fees.

Commissioners asked SueLynn to get a roof inspection and a mold report, along with any other new cost estimates, back to them to review at the April 8 work session.

Resident Margaret Jenkins said that with the project cost continuing its upward spiral, if it gets close to $300,000, the city should just tear down the existing structure and build a new city hall.

Southern Cross estimated the cost to renovate the interior of city hall at $151,000, but additional costs to the city include $15,000 to rent a temporary trailer for city hall staff to use during the renovations, $8,700 to remove asbestos-containing floor tiles, $6,990 cable, voice and data rewiring of the renovated building, and $2,790 for temporary cabling to the trailer.

The city hall renovation project has been in the city budget the past four years, but implementation of the project only began about 15 months ago.