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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Future of Anna Maria City Hall renovation project in doubt

The first agenda item at the Anna Maria City Commission workshop April 8 was supposed to be about the city's contract with Southern Cross Construction for the planned remodeling of city hall.

Instead, commissioners spent nearly 90 minutes micro-managing the scope of work already approved by the commission last year, putting the entire project within the realm of numerous city projects that get plenty of lip service but see little action.

Commissioner Linda Cramer led the charge against going ahead with the project as it stands now, claiming the city should perform a complete roof inspection and make any recommendations part of city hall renovations.

Although roof improvements or replacement were not in the original scope of work authorized by the commission, Cramer was not to be denied.

"I want more roof information before we go further into this. The roof is the culprit. If we're going to do [the project], I'd like to see us do it all."

The city has already budgeted $168,000 for the remodeling project, but Cramer said the "most important way to spend the money is the roof."

That comment came after Public Works Director George McKay said he and a roofing contractor combed through the roof last week looking for problems. They determined the roof could only last about two more years, and that would be stretching it, he said.

McKay said he discovered some dry rot and a leak in the northeast corner where the Manatee County Sheriff's Office substation is located. He did suggest that roof repairs or replacement could be in next year's budget and the commission proceed now with the current planned interior renovations at city hall.

That was a suggestion Commission Chairperson John Quam concurred with.

Cramer, however, said she wasn't comfortable without a complete professionally-done roof inspection and a new roof, if necessary. She also suggested that the windows be examined for repair or replacement, and the city consider new stucco for the exterior. None of those repairs were part of the original score of work performed by architect Tom O'Brien at the commission's request.

Mayor SueLynn wondered if Cramer's direction was for her to "get an estimate of an estimate of what a roof inspection will cost."

"I'd just like to see you move forward and don't ask questions," sniped Cramer, who has indicated she's not prepared to proceed with the project until such information is available to her. She also said she knows someone who is a roofing contractor who could perform the inspection.

Quam, however, disagreed with what's important to the project.

With reports of mold and asbestos at city hall, those issues have "become most important. We can't delay much longer. We owe it to the staff to correct the problems."

Delaying the project further will just end up costing the city more money as costs continue to inflate.

Wait a minute, said Commissioner Dale Woodland. Are we going to discuss the contract or the roof?

Discussion then turned to the continued increase in the estimated costs associated with project.

The mayor said the Island Baptist Church has indicated the city could use its facility as a temporary city hall during the renovations, once the Island Middle School vacates the premises in June. That would eliminate the estimated $15,300 cost to rent a double-wide trailer and the nearly $3,000 to wire the trailer.

That would considerably reduce the project cost, which the mayor has estimated at $186,000, including trailer rental, trailer wiring, new wiring for the remodeled city hall and architect's fees, she said.

She also noted that Southern Cross has agreed to hold its $151,000 contract price firm for the next few months.

But Quam disagreed with the mayor's estimates. His figures put the estimate closer to $210,000. He thought the city could save money by not changing the entrance in the approved plans, but City Attorney Jim Dye thought that might trigger a re-bid process and require completely new blueprints.

Woodland suggested Quam and the mayor get together before the April 22 meeting and come up with more precise figures that they both agree with.

Dye indicated there could be legal issues involved eventually if the city is aware of the mold and asbestos problems, but fails to take remedial action.

SueLynn agreed. There are federal guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that the city is required to follow. "We are bound to do something" about those issues, she indicated.

The mayor said she would provide commissioners with an update on the use of Island Baptist Church, and the estimated cost of a roof inspection at the April 22 commission meeting.

Commissioners Duke Miller and Carol Ann Magill were absent from the worksession.

Magill has said previously she is opposed to proceeding with the project because of escalating costs, but has acknowledged the city has to do something about the mold and asbestos to ensure worker safety.

Miller has also expressed concern with the continued increase in costs associated with the project that are in addition to the $151,000 contract with Southern Cross. That contract has not yet been signed by the commission.

Woodland also doesn't want to spend more than the amount in the 2003-04 budget, but agreed the city must deal with the mold and asbestos problems.

Overpayment of elected officials
SueLynn said she had not followed up with the commission's recommendation in January to place collection of overpayments to former Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh and former City Commissioner Doug Wolfe with a collection agency because of concerns about the accounting method used to determine what they were to be paid.

Although he's never been asked officially by the city to look into the matter, Dye said there seems to be a problem with the method of payment to elected officials. What's missing is the formula used by the city auditors to calculate payments, he said. The city relies on the budget ordinance for its compensation schedule of payments to elected officials, not a separate ordinance.

He believes elected officials should be paid from the date they are sworn in to the date someone else is sworn in to take their position.

Deffenbaugh has said he doesn't owe the city the $180 it's asking for because he was elected for two years (24 months) and that's what he was paid for.

The auditors method of determining salary appears to indicate elected officials are paid for 23 months plus a portion of the 24th month during their term of office, Cramer observed.

Woodland and City Treasurer Diane Percycoe will meet to try and determine how the city auditor arrived at 23 months of salary plus a partial payment.

Old and new business
Cramer called for a special commission meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 15, to prioritize the old business/new business matters still pending before the commission.

There are 16 items of new business pending and 11 old business items the commission must address and Cramer wants a priority list established.

If the commission is not going to deal with an item, just remove it from the list, she suggested.