DUNEDIN — The city is on the move, soon physically as well as philosophically, with plans to lease office space in a commercial center at 1415 Pinehurst Road along San Christopher Drive while its new City Hall-Municipal Services complex is being built.

“We live in exciting times, to be sure,” City Manager Jennifer Bramley told commissioners at an Aug. 20 work session.

Bob Ironsmith, city housing and economic development director, explained that with the building of a new City Hall complex, at 750 Milwaukee Ave. and 737 Louden Ave., there is a need to find a temporary home for city employees who will be displaced with demolition of two existing office buildings.

After studying seven locations and several possibilities, staff recommended leasing 9,030 square feet of office and 1,152 square feet of storage space in the retail center at 1415 Pinehurst Road, which is home to the recently opened Thirsty Falcon tavern.

Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said “it sends a message that this is really happening.”

“Watching all this coming together it’s almost like a military maneuver,” said Commissioner Deborah Kynes. “I give you a lot of credit. It’s really a Herculean effort.”

Ironsmith emphasized the existing City Hall at 542 Main St. will continue in operation while the new City Hall is being built over the next 2 1/2 years.

He advised the Pinehurst location was chosen because it’s ready to move in at an affordable cost of $18 a square foot, with an annual increase of 3%. Other factors considered were its customer and visitor friendliness, the good appearance of the space, lack of needed improvements, on-site storage and its proximity to current city operations.

“The lease rate … is competitive and the city is able to secure a shorter lease period of 2 1/2 years than is typically given by owners. There is also the ability to secure additional parking by lease from nearby property owners,” he explained. “The lease term would begin Oct. 1, 2019, for two years, with an option for an additional six months.”

The actual move-in date for the city departments is scheduled for Oct. 15 to allow for IT/communication installation and other preparation, he said. Office space at the Pinehurst center is 75% complete with furniture and should allow the transition to take place fairly quickly.

One of the beneficial aspects of leasing the Pinehurst space is the onsite presence of air-conditioned storage space, which is key for city records, Ironsmith said.

As part of the department shuffle, dubbed “Dunedin on the Move,” human resources, risk management and utility billing would relocate to the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center.

“This location was chosen after consulting with the Parks and Recreation director to ensure that occupying this space would not impact existing recreation programs,” he said.

The finance and purchasing department would relocate to the Elliott Room at the Dunedin Community Center. All other city departments, such as the city clerk, community redevelopment, engineering and planning and zoning, would be housed at the Pinehurst location.

City commissioners unanimously approved staff negotiating a lease to set up the city’s temporary offices at the center.

Merchants plan a ‘Fat Saturday’ for Mardi Gras 2020

In other actions, commissioners approved a request from the Dunedin Downtown Merchants Association to move the city’s celebration of Mardi Gras from Fat Tuesday to Saturday, Feb. 22, so its parade along Douglas Avenue will not conflict with spring training baseball on Tuesday, Feb 18.

City to negotiate with North Carolina applicant for city clerk position

After a series of interviews and background checks, commissioners directed staff to negotiate with Rebecca Schlichter, deputy town clerk in Garner, North Carolina, to fill its city clerk position.

City Manager Jennifer Bramley noted the city’s search for a clerk has gone on almost a year. During that time City Clerk Denise Kirkpatrick, who plans to retire, agreed to remain in her post.

Bramley said commissioners just could not find the right fit that they are looking for, but since the current clerk was willing to stay on for as long as it takes, there was no great rush to fill the post.

About half-dozen applicants have gone through the interview process with the city commission and staff. Bramley said the city has been close in finding a suitable applicant a couple of times.

The city manager said the city is looking for someone who wants to make a long-term commitment, not one who just sees the position as a stepping-stone.

The annual salary for the position ranges from a minimum of $64,000 to a maximum of $102,000, “which isn’t chump change,” Bramley said.