The city of Indian Rocks Beach is putting the finishing touches on a $260,000 facelift to city hall.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – The work on the façade of IRB’s City Hall, begun a year ago, is nearly finished. All that’s left now are the finishing touches.
The project began in January 2012 when it was discovered the building had some cracks in it. City officials decided to spend $150,000 to fix those cracks and to put a new front on the building. It turns out the cracks were the least of the worries.
“It was somewhat challenging,” said IRB Public Works Director Dean Scharmen. “Anytime you work on an older building you expose something that you didn’t expect.”
In this case it was a front wall that didn’t have nearly the necessary support to be considered safe. It would have to be fixed.
Then something else popped up. The soil around the building was not deemed appropriate for handling the large columns needed for the job.
“You have to be able to compact the soil to be able to withstand the column weight,” said Scharmen. “What was there was clay that would not provide the compaction. So we had to dig below that layer and take the bad soil out and bring new soil in.”
Engineers had to be brought back in for more meetings with the architect and the contractor, and that meant the construction job was going to have to last that much longer.
It also meant that while the front entrance to the City Hall and the Library were closed off during construction, people had to use a side entrance to get to the library, whether there was a commission meeting on or not.
“For 60 to 90 days there was some confusion,” said Scharmen. “But eventually people got used to it and understood we were in the middle of a major construction job.”
That disruption, according to Mayor R.B. Johnson, had little impact on the daily business of the town.
“Construction is always difficult when people have to be re-routed, but it wasn’t too difficult,” he said. “It was just the nature of the business. I didn’t hear anybody complain. The worst of it was we had to cancel the Haunted House this Halloween, which is always inside in the auditorium. But it will be back next year.”
As for the look of the building, which was built in the 1950s, Johnson said he likes it.
“I think it is turning out really nice,” he said. “It has a certain beach feel to it; it fits in with the IRB seaside look. Eventually it will extend all the way around the building and it will give it a jazzed up look. I am pleased with the way it has turned out.”
Just as pleased was Scharmen, who shepherded the project through from beginning to end and who had to endure the tough questions when the project kept falling further and further behind.
“Is it a relief to have it behind me? I would say yes, it was a challenge, but a very rewarding challenge,” he said. “It has been a good project because everybody is going to see it every day.”
In the end the cost of the project went from the budgeted $150,000 to $260,000. That meant something had to be trimmed from the budget. That casualty was the relocation of the city’s solid waste department. That facility, located next to the Keegan Clair Park in the Triangle Business area, was to be moved off the island in 2015 to a location that would have been purchased by the city. Instead that project has been pushed back to 2017.