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St. Pete Beach eyes library move
City discusses feasibility study for possible switch to current city hall
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ST. PETE BEACH – City commissioners have taken the first step toward a possible move of the city library to the current city hall building on Corey Avenue and moving city hall to the former police station off 75th Avenue.

St. Pete Beach Commissioners voted unanimously May 13 to authorize interim City Manager Elaine Edmunds to contact Ward Friszolowski, executive vice president of Harvard Jolly Architecture, about the cost of a feasibility study involving such a move.

“The idea is to see if it is feasible to convert city hall into a library and what the cost would be, and what it would cost for the former police station to be converted into a city hall,” Edmunds said. “We currently have renovation plans for the library where it is located. There’s been a lot of discussion about the best place for it and whether we should look at utilizing the police station and city hall.”

However, the city has no clear cost estimates to work with.

“So this would be to move forward to determine the cost of renovating these two buildings, so that a decision can made, whether it would be worthwhile or whether we should continue renovating (the current library),” Edmunds said.

Library Administrator Phyllis Ruscella said there are two key criteria that engineers must look at.

“The two that come to mind are the floors must be load-bearing for the weight of books and how many walls are going to be coming down because some walls could be load-bearing,” Ruscella said. “Those are two considerations that need to be resolved.”

Ruscella said if the cost to make the current city hall building load-bearing is $5 million to $6 million, then the current $2.8 million figure to renovate the present library building may be more attractive.

“So I think there’s a fiscal consideration of whether (renovating city hall) is worthy of the investment,” Ruscella said.

But Ruscella said she could make the city hall building work.

“It has many advantages,” she said. “Two that come to mind are that it’s (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant and it meets FEMA regulations, which our current building does not. There’s also a delivery dock in the back and ample parking.”

Ruscella added that the kind of determinations the city would get from a feasibility study “is really what we need to make an informed decision.”

Mayor Maria Lowe explained that Harvard Jolly was heavily involved in studies on the former police station when the Secrets of the Sea marine aquarium was considering it as a site. Local builder Paul Skipper built city hall and would be available for structural input.

“The purpose of a feasibility study would be to look at the complexities of the police department and this building (city hall) concurrently,” Lowe said. “We would move (city hall) into the police building first and then the library could move in here.”

She also reiterated the need for the city to move quickly. St. Pete Beach has been awarded a $200,000 state grant for library renovations but it has a 2015 sunset.

“We don’t want to lose the $200,000 grant we already have,” Lowe said.

Other reasons for the switch, Lowe said, is the fact that city hall is currently FEMA compliant, which would provide huge savings on city insurance costs. The current library is not. Also, both the current city hall and the police station are wired for communications and security, which would cut the cost of a move.

City officials estimate the cost of the feasibility study at about $50,000.

In other action, the City Commission:

• Appointed Fire Chief Dan Graves the city’s representative on the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Disaster Re-Entry Work Group. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri seeks local input on a universal system for island re-entry that would likely go into effect in one year.

• Appointed Hurricane Seafood Restaurant General Manager Rick Falkenstein to the interim District 2 seat on the City Commission, following the recent resignation of Jim Parent. He will serve until Aug. 26 when an election will be held for a permanent commissioner. Others that were under consideration for the interim seat were Bryan Cummins, John Lazzarir and Joanne Lentino.

• Tabled until May 27 a proposed agreement with the law firm Bryant Miller Olive for city attorney services. Current City Attorney Mike Davis is retiring, effective July 1. The commission is considering going outside for another attorney but wanted to wait until a District 2 commissioner was seated before making a decision on the Bryant Miller Olive proposal to continue the contract with a replacement attorney from within the firm.

• Authorized $53,512.80 for sidewalk and curb replacement in Pass-A-Grille by MTM Contractors.

• Authorized Edmunds to enter into a two-year contract extension with Wells, Houser and Schatzel for auditing services.
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