DUNEDIN – Ever since 2000, the city of Dunedin has realized it needs a new Municipal Services Building. However, the fluctuations in the economy and changes in staffing has changed the specific needs for the building. The Dunedin City Commission heard a staff status report about the project at its Dec. 19 meeting.
The original study was done in 2000 and then updated in 2009 by an architectural firm and then once again in 2012. The newest plan shows the city would need at least 19,000 square feet of workable space.
“The 2009 study was revised in 2012 by the architectural firm, Inside Out Group, to reflect downsizing that occurred and redeployment of staff,” said City Manager Rob DiSpirito. “Particularly in municipal services, City Hall, and the Technical Services Buildings. Each iteration resulted in downsizing of project space and costs.”
After the earlier need assessment studies, the city purchased the former First Baptist site on which to build a new City Hall and government center.
“However, with our somewhat more modest needs now, with fewer employees, and given some of the creative thinking we’ve been trying to apply with how best to efficiently use space and efficiently use the public tax dollar, our thought is and our approach at this point is to not propose a government center on the First Baptist Church site as was originally envisioned,” DiSpirito said, “but to look at a new building annex. An appendage, in other words, of the existing Technical Services Building. The original thought was to forego that building. Forego the Municipal Services Building, which is very much aging and in very, very bad condition. In this case, the annex would replace the Municipal Services building. That building is really beyond redemption. And also with the potential of bringing the City Hall facilities – this public chamber and the commission offices and the city staff that are housed here at City Hall – and bring it in a consolidated fashion in this proposed city annex on the block where we currently have the Technical Services Building.”
The Inside Out Group and city staff therefore proposes building a 19,000-square-foot new facility – the “annex” – adjacent to the current Technical Services Building, and renovating the latter.
City staff has talked with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office about sharing this space, DiSpirito said, and the Sheriff’s Office requested the entire first floor space but does not anticipate any need for expansion anytime in the near future.
The estimated cost of the total project is $5.1 million, which would come from a combination of borrowing, “creative financing, or public-private partnership which leverages city assets,” the memo said. It would be all part of the budget for 2015.
“We want to explore some partnerships for construction with a developer that we would publicly advertise for this opportunity,” DiSpirito said, “for developers to respond with an interest in a partnership with us where a lot of the cost could be spread over a good number of years. Perhaps do a lease-backed scenario. Perhaps in deference to the value of the land that would ultimately be acquired from the city – the Baptist church site – and apply those resources to a long-term financing arrangement so that it is not a crippling one-time, front-end hit to the city and the taxpayers but is something that is manageable financially over a long period of time.”
DiSpirito said that staff is quite close to completing writing a request for proposals and will soon be able to bring that back to the commission for review. After that, the city can issue it and see what kind of plans developers come back with. The RFP could be ready for review within about 30 days, DiSpirito said, depending on the availability of the Board of Finance to first review it.
Mayor Dave Eggers wanted to know what the timeframe would look like once they submit the RFP. Doug Hutchens, Public Works and Utilities Director, said it would probably be about 90 days total, with a 30- to 60-day turnaround on the proposal. The process also depends on the interest developers have in the project, he said.
“And so the public understands best, an RFP is just an information gathering device,” DiSpirito said. “It is not a proposed contract. It is not putting the commission or the city in a position of obligation. We are putting a proposal out. We are simply looking for bids or estimates, saying hey, is this a project that your company could do? And from that point there is plenty of additional public discussion. A lot of check-in points, including ultimately it would require commission direction to proceed to the level of contract and any kind of real obligations – financial and otherwise.”
Commissioner Julie Bujalski added that the city may not even like any of the proposals that come back after the first RFP is issued. They may have to look at what was proposed and then adjust the city’s requirements and try again.