Illustration courtesy of WANNEMACHER JENSEN ARCHITECTS
This illustration shows the scope of the municipal center project that the city of Madeira Beach has agreed to move forward with. The cost is estimated to be around $9 million.
MADEIRA BEACH – City officials emerged from a March 26 town hall session on the planned Madeira Beach municipal center with a clear message from the large and vocal crowd.
The consensus: It’s time to end the meetings and move ahead with the project.
Following presentations from the architects and financial consultants who had little new to show from previous sessions, speaker after speaker from the audience, with few exceptions, urged city commissioners and staff to go ahead and get the job done. Most favored the larger version, which adds the recreation complex and a multi-purpose center to a new city hall and fire station. The cost of that option is expected to be about $9 million.
At the end of the session, most commission members agreed with Mayor Travis Palladeno when he said, “It’s time for the city to move forward.”
Discussion of building a new municipal center began nearly two years ago, and the condition of the current city hall was an issue long before that.
Last May, the commission hired Wannemacher Jensen Architects of St. Petersburg to design a “total makeover of the Madeira Beach city government complex on Madeira Way.” At the time, architect Jason Jensen promised to come up with “a vision that everyone can embrace and move forward with.”
Since then, multiple meetings have taken place, the project scope has expanded and contracted with the waves of public opinion, and little forward movement has been evident.
After being assured by the city’s financial consultant that even the largest complex being considered with a $9 million price tag is affordable, residents at the March 26 town hall session were ready to get the job done. Loud applause greeted those who urged the commission to end the meetings and start the project.
“It’s time for the city to look forward and be progressive,” said John Leeper. “You have the revenue, go do it,” he said.
Most agreed with Peter Trott, who said he supported “doing the whole thing.”
Trott was speaking of the municipal center option that includes a new recreation center and ball field upgrades, and a multi-purpose building in addition to a city hall and fire station.
A number of younger residents with children said they favored improving the recreation complex, especially the ball fields.
Little League president Dan Griffin told the commission to “do the larger option.”
“I encourage you to consider our children. They want to be a part of their community,” he said.
“We need a new city hall and new ball fields,” said Tom Laronge. “We need this for our kids. The kids are our future.”
Kelsey Nelson, mother of a 2-year-old, said the present ball fields and playgrounds are “not up to par.
“New families are moving in. That’s what we need to worry about,” she said.
Nelson urged the city to do the entire project.
“You will save money on construction and the cost of a bond issue,” she said.
Rosie Bailey also said she supports everything proposed. She said an outdoor fitness center and community garden should be considered.
The new ball fields will bring in tournaments that can generate a lot of money for the city businesses, Armando Costello said.
Steve Miller said he does not personally want the ball fields, but acknowledged their “tremendous support by the community.”
Miller spoke of noise and lighting that impacts residents on nearby Harbor Drive.
A few residents wanted the scaled-down version of the municipal center that includes the city hall and fire station only. Deby Weinstein said she is against the rec field improvements and the multi-purpose building.
“I’m all for the kids,” said former Commissioner Marv Merrill, “but we already have a $550,000 recreation budget. It’s not like we’re not doing anything.”
But former Commissioner Steve Kochick told the commission, “If you listen to the nay-sayers, nothing will ever get done.”
“Should we put our money into the ball fields? Damn straight we should,” said Kochick.
“Let’s get this thing done – it’s taking way too long,” said Todd Nichols.
“It is the commission’s responsibility to act. You need to vote on this and get it done,” Doug Speeler said.
The “move on” message was picked up by the commission members.
Palladeno said it’s time for the city to go forward with the project.
Commissioner Terry Lister said, “Sounds like the majority want to make Madeira Beach a better place to live. We have enough money for this and the other projects, so let’s move it forward.”
Incoming commissioner and former Mayor Pat Shontz said she’s for the whole project.
“Let’s move on and get it done,” she said.
Vice Mayor Robin Vander Velde’s call for another town meeting, on a Saturday so more residents could attend, was turned down.
Commissioner Nancy Oakley was absent from the meeting.