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A site plan for a proposed high-and-dry boat storage facility at Madeira Beach is shown. This proposal includes a restaurant, which would be located in the white block at the bottom right.

MADEIRA BEACH — The city will be getting new bids on a high-and-dry boat storage facility at the municipal marina, along with a restaurant to be built over the existing ship store. A recent cost estimate from a consultant who did a feasibility study on the project put the price at $30 million.

That was, in Mayor John Hendricks’ words, “way too much debt to put on the city.” Hendricks had said at the time that the $30 million estimate was a lot higher than other numbers he was getting.

Now, the commission has decided to take another look at the high-and-dry and restaurant. They agreed at the July 28 workshop to send out requests for proposals and see what the response will be.

Hendricks said that Cardno, the consulting firm that came up with the $30 million price, only went to one company for a cost estimate.

“There are other companies out there interested in coming to Madeira Beach and building this and running it on a long-term lease,” Hendricks said.

Adding a high-and-dry boat storage facility to the marina could be a tight fit, Commissioner Dave Hutson said. He was concerned that the vehicles belonging to the Public Works department, which have always used the property on Tom Stuart Causeway where the marina is located, would not have adequate space under the proposed site plan.

“In looking at the plans from Cardno, there wasn’t a lot of space for Public Works,” Hutson said. “Are we better off separating Public Works from this (boat storage) operation?”

Hendricks said the plan is to incorporate the Public Works building into the high-and-dry. “We can use the airspace above for boat storage,” he said. A separate Public Works building would take up a lot of space, Hendricks said. “I don’t know if it would fit, if we have enough property to house a separate Public Works building.”

Commissioner Doug Andrews said he was okay with doing the RFP, adding, “I don’t think we got a proper feasibility study by (Cardno) just talking to one company.”

Andrews also said it is important to have a Public Works building, and he does not think the city can find a suitable property nearby to put it.

“Public Works is such an important part of the city, and we need them desperately,” Andrews said.

As for the high-and-dry, “we’ll see what we can fit there,” Andrews said, perhaps a smaller boat storage facility without robotics.

“I don’t want to jam the property up,” Andrews said.

Hendricks, too, questioned the fit of a high-and-dry on the marina property, even saying “we may end up with just a restaurant and a Public Works building there.”

Andrews responded, “And that wouldn’t be bad either.”

But Hendricks wanted to push ahead with sending out RFPs. The commission agreed to have an RFP for a high-and-dry facility, with a Public Works building incorporated into the north end, and a separate RFP on the restaurant, which would be built on the second floor of the existing ship store.

In-house engineer considered

In a move to save money that could also improve engineering services for the city, the commission has decided to look at hiring an in-house engineer.

Hendricks said he has been concerned with the amount of money the city has been paying its consulting engineer firm, Deuel and Associates. Their bill last year was over $500,000, which included charges for every phone call, email and the like, in addition to their consulting fee, Hendricks said.

“I just felt that, even though we had a contract with them, we were paying a lot of expenses that should have been a part of their contract,” Hendricks said. “I think it’s time to either hire an in-house engineer or put out bids to hire another engineering firm.”

Andrews said city staff has been very comfortable working with Deuel, but he would not have a problem looking at making a change. He wanted to know if the city could afford an in-house engineer.

Hendricks responded that he got a cost estimate of $70,000 to $100,000 a year from an engineering firm he had spoken with. “If that’s true, then it’s a no-brainer to try and find someone,” he said.

A qualified engineer to handle the city’s needs may be hard to find, said City Manager Bob Daniels. The person would have to be certified and able to validate plans for city projects and have other qualifications, Daniels said.

Daniels suggested the city either run an ad for an engineer, or look back at a number of certified engineers former Public Works director Jamie Ahrens brought in and had agreements with.

Hendricks said an in-house engineer position “would pay for itself” out of funds from fees that developers pay when they submit plans.

Commissioner Nancy Hodges asked if the city had enough work for a full-time engineer, or if a part-time person should be hired.

Daniels said having an engineer on staff “would lighten the load on everyone,” especially key employees like Community Development Director Linda Portal, who have heavy workloads. He also mentioned the city will be doing more road projects, and an in-house engineer could do inspections on-site rather than paying an engineering firm to do it.

The city is also likely to be doing more certification of structures, after the condo collapse in Surfside, and the documents have to be reviewed by an engineer, Daniels said.

The commission decided to look at hiring an in-house engineer rather than bid out for engineering services.