The city of Zephyrhills is getting a brand-new City Hall after all.
Following several weeks of dialogue, the Zephyrhills City Council unanimously approved a motion to build a new structure at the existing City Hall site, at 5335 Eighth St.
The new facility is expected be about 5,000-square-feet larger than the current 11,000-square-foot building,
It likely will have a modernized brick and stone exterior.
The interior may feature more open workspaces and multifunctional meeting rooms, which can flexibly be used to accommodate public events.
The council had considered the feasibility of housing the city’s headquarters at the 20,000-square-foot SunTrust bank building, at 5435 Gall Blvd.
But, council members decided a new building was the best option after cost estimates showed the two projects have roughly the same price tag of $6 million.
Additional costs—including architect and contractor fees—could bring the entire project’s price tag to about $7.7 million.
Councilman Lance Smith said evaluating the two options was a “good exercise,” but noted the 44-year-old SunTrust building had too many red flags.
“Obviously, we can’t have cost overruns, but on an unknown building like that, you just don’t know what they’re going to be. That scares me quite a bit,” Smith said during the Sept. 26. council meeting.
Smith added a new City Hall building is more likely to “last the test of time,” compared to an older, refurbished building.
“I think a civic building should be something that you build…for a lifetime,” Smith said. “I think there’s something to be said for having a civic building the community looks to and has pride in.”
Councilman Ken Burgess concurred with Smith, echoing additional concerns about the substantial costs of preliminary overhauls such as a new roof and air conditioning for the bank building.
“With the new building, you’re going to get the latest in ‘green’ building technology, and energy efficiency,” Burgess said. “We could probably do some things to the old building, but it would probably not be as energy efficient as the new building would be.”
Councilman Charles Proctor said he was, at one point, convinced the SunTrust building was the best option, but later felt “uneasy” as more information about the site was presented.
“I just feel more comfortable with giving the people a brand-new building versus a ‘brand-new’ 50-year-old building,” Proctor said.
On a related note, the council also approved an agreement with A.D. Morgan to serve as construction manager for the city hall project.
The Tampa-based contractor will work closely with architectural firm Harvard Jolly.
The project is expected to take about 20 months to complete, which incorporates about eight months of design and 12 months of construction.
It marks the second major Zephyrhills project in recent years for both firms.
In 2013, both firms were hired to design and build the Zephyrhills Public Library. They later faced scrutiny over the project’s escalating costs.
At the time, Harvard Jolly and A.D. Morgan presented the council with an 8,500-square-foot facility for $1.7 million, but overall costs ended up totaling $2.26 million, a 33 percent increase from what the council originally agreed upon.
Councilman Smith warned the two firms, who were both in attendance, not to make the same mistake twice.
“All of us up here are going to be really, really cost conscience because of prior experience. I don’t think we’ll be cheap, but if we come in at some significant overruns, we’ll have to do something different,” said Smith.
Council vice president Alan Knight added: “I want them to be very accountable.”
City Manager Steve Spina doubled down on previous statements that the council will be included “in every step” of the design-build process.
“You’ll be much more in the loop,” Spina said, addressing the council. “If there’s anything that comes along that could be a potential change in cost, you’ll know about it immediately.”
Published October 5, 2016