The Zephyrhills City Council got an unwelcome lump of coal in their Christmas stocking after finding out the stately brick and stone library they were expecting was going to cost them a lot more money.
And none of them were very happy about it.
The council hired the architectural firm Harvard Jolly and contractor A.D. Morgan after they presented an 8,500-square-foot facility next to the library’s current location on Eighth Street for $1.7 million. However, after going out into the market to look at materials and supplies, the two companies came back with a new price tag: $2.5 million, a 47 percent jump.
The options? Either go with a cheaper, stucco version of the library, or pay more money.
“One of my reasons for picking your company is your guarantees that we were going to be in budget,” Councilman Charles Proctor said. “I run several companies of my own, and being in budget is very important to me.”
Yet, as Proctor pointed out, there was a larger issue.
“The prior councils made promises to the city to build a beautiful library,” he said. “The brick building is going to be a much more substantial, better built, longer-lasting building. We really needed to come in on budget on this.”
Harvard Jolly and A.D. Morgan were able to reduce the overall cost to $2.26 million, but that remained 33 percent over budget. That can be mostly blamed on the existing volatile market for brick and stone, said George Goodspeed, manager of pre-construction services at A.D. Morgan. When the company sought bids on the masonry and concrete, the largest bid was double the smallest bid, and all of them were much more than they anticipated.
The concrete and masonry work, however, would go to Ervin Bishop Construction of Land O’ Lakes.
Councilman Ken Burgess said he felt the architects were practically baiting and switching the city.
“You have two buildings here,” he said. “It’s like giving a kid a shiny penny, but then here’s a dull one. They both do the same thing, but the shiny penny has already been handed to him. It’s a little bit difficult to kind of go back and use the dull penny. It puts us in a bad spot.”
It would, however, bring the library a little closer to what was first proposed nearly a decade ago, said librarian Vicki Elkins. The original plan was to build a 27,000-square-foot library, but that was quickly pared down to an 18,000-square-foot facility for $3.8 million.
Money for it was to come from the Penny for Pasco tax program, with the city making annual contributions to a construction fund.
In 2009, however, a flood at the fire department halted contributions to the library construction fund, and they never returned.
“Had Penny for Pasco funding been added after 2009, the building reserve would have the funds to cover the brick design,” Elkins said. “There is money that is available in the Penny for Pasco reserve to cover the brick design, and that is what we are asking you to consider tonight.”
Councilwoman Jodi Wilkeson said if such an overage had happened in the business world, she would’ve been fired. Yet, the library design was intended to help inspire a brick construction style that peeks into the past of Zephyrhills. And the council could not lose sight of that.
“When you go to a place like Dade City and enjoy the country Christmas stroll, and the county hall is lit up, there is a character to that space … that is unmatched,” she said. “For the most part, some of the most beautiful cities in our country have been built with municipal structures being the most enduring, and the highest quality of design.”
With the council reluctantly leaning toward spending more money on the library to maintain its original vision, council president Lance Smith added a stern warning to Harvard Jolly and A.D. Morgan.
“Please don’t come back” for more money after this increase, Smith said, “because it’s not going to be successful.”
Ground should be broken in March for the new library, with an anticipated opening in spring of 2015.
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