The brand-new Zephyrhills City Hall has been in operation since October — but local residents and dignitaries got an up-close view of the digs during a Nov. 27 open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
At 19,000 square feet, the $6.2 million building represents a major upgrade to the former City Hall facility, which was 11,000 square feet and was built in the 1950s.
The two-story building, at 5335 Eighth St., has a modernized brick and stone exterior, and is accented with a fountain and courtyard plaza.
The interior has a similar majestic feel.
On the whole, the new City Hall features more open workspaces and multifunctional meeting rooms, which can flexibly be used to accommodate public events.
The first floor is spotlighted by its sizable council chambers — outfitted with high ceilings, large windows and modern decor. It seats up to 80 people and is equipped with large flat-screen televisions to help attendees see presentations.
Also on the first floor, is a large main lobby and a sizable reception area, for those waiting to meet with the city’s utility, building and planning departments.
Much of the second floor features administration and IT office spaces, as well as a conference room and break room. Several of the second floor spaces are double-door rooms, which may later be converted to more offices as the city grows.
Technology is another a significant feature in the facility. It has automatic lighting and upgraded thermostats, as well as security cameras and access-control keypads. Meeting rooms are equipped with Smart TVs that are integrated with office computers for greater efficiency and planning purposes.
Multiple restrooms, stairwells and an elevator are some other noted features.
City officials expressed excitement about the City Hall during the open house event.
“This is a beautiful facility,” Zephyrhills Mayor Gene Whitfield said. “The first thing I thought of when I came in after it was finished was, ‘Wow!’”
He added: “We’re very proud of it and very proud we could do this for our citizens. It’s their building. It fits our community, and we’re really proud of that and we’re proud to have the honor of serving the community.”
Zephyrhills City Council president Lance Smith was enthusiastic about the building, too. He noted the former City Hall felt “kind of like a dungeon.”
“It was well past time we needed this new building,” Smith said. “It’s just a beautiful building, and I think that’s what a public structure should be — it should be something that everybody’s proud of and it’s to be used by the community.”
Smith also took time to encourage more residents to utilize the council chambers to host meetings, events and other activities. “I just want everybody to use this. …Instead of being used once every two weeks, I want to see that thing used,” he said.
Fellow City Council member Jodi Wilkeson expressed these sentiments, regarding the new City Hall: “I believe in my heart that the people who hold this city together — the workers— they deserve a structure like this, as do the citizens of our community.”
The City Hall project was designed and built by Harvard Jolly and A.D. Morgan.
It took more than a year to build the facility after the old City Hall was demolished last September. During construction, Zephyrhills staffers worked from the city’s old police station on Ninth Street, while City Council meetings were held at the Zephyrhills Public Library.
Assistant City Clerk Jessica Carter remembers her co-workers being elated to finally move into the new City Hall on Oct. 8.
“That was a day we were all looking forward to. We didn’t mind coming into work that Monday,” Carter said with a chuckle.
Though pleased with the entire facility, Carter noted the break room, of course, is a favorite among city employees, herself included.
Said Carter: “It’s a happening place; lots of counter spaces.
“I don’t know if anybody saw the old City Hall, but our break room was more like a closet with a refrigerator, so this is definitely a huge upgrade,” she added.
The new building is still undergoing a few final finishing touches, according to Public Works Director Shane LeBlanc. Those include correcting minor painting flaws, window treatments and other punch list items. Work is also being done on the courtyard fountain and an additional parking lot, which is expected to be finished by January.
Published December 5, 2018