Article and Photography by LARRY CLIFTON
During a scheduled meeting on Monday, January 3, Brooksville’s Mayor and City Council delayed until their next meeting a decision on whether to build a new Department of Public Works (DPW) facility or renovate existing structures at the compound. Council members and Mayor Pat Brayton ultimately directed City Manager Ron Snowberger and staff to obtain specific details about bank fees, interest rates and the number of years required to repay potential loans for the major city project. Brooksville City Council meets on the first and third Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted on the Council’s calendar.
As reported by this newspaper in August, Snowberger proposed building a new Public Works / Municipal Utilities facility that will meet the needs of the city now and into the future. The existing DPW complex was built in the 1940s and currently houses the Department of Public Works; Streets; Traffic; Stormwater; Fleet Services, and Administration offices.
“Not only is the current facility not big enough, it’s more than 75 years old, it’s getting older, it’s had a roof collapse, and had a bad interior leak,” said Snowberger.
Ironically, DPW is responsible for all phases of maintenance, repair/modification, security and the cleaning of city buildings and facilities. The Public Works Department is also responsible for evaluating and function-testing the emergency equipment of all city buildings and facilities. The current DPW facility was built in 1941, and before the city, was most recently used by Withlacoochee Electric Cooperative.
According to a city report, the existing facility has reached its useful life expectancy and is experiencing several failures within the structure and with the mechanical systems. Additionally, there is no longer enough space to meet the needs of the departments.
During Monday’s meeting, the following three options were proposed, with Snowberger recommending approval of Option 1 which is by far the most expensive.
Option 1: Would create a proposed site plan for a new public works facility with a new fleet facility included. This facility would be constructed on the land to the north of the existing Public Works facility and east of Russell St. Park. The land where the proposed new facility is to be located is owned by the City of Brooksville. Estimated cost: $3.496 million.
Option 2: Would estimate the cost of remodeling / repairing the existing offices and Fleet building. This would re-capture the existing land without disturbance of the property to the north. In this option, scheduling would be very important to maintain our services while having work performed. Estimated cost: $1.781 million.
Option 3. Would investigate building a smaller version of the offices on the vacant land to the north. The remodeling of the facilities which can be saved to the south. This version would also include demolition of the existing office building. Estimated cost: $1.781 million.
The city previously contracted with Alan Garmin of ProCivil 360 to inspect, estimate and present options including costs.
“It’s a total mess,” Garmin said, summing up the condition of the existing facility. Some of the issues include open-air areas where equipment is exposed to the elements including expensive tools and machinery left outside. It was also noted that the city’s garbage trucks do not fit inside repair bays, causing mechanics to work on vehicles with little cover from wind and rain.
While council members overall seemed to favor Option-1, the costs and terms of a potential multimillion-dollar loan led city leaders to call for clarification of terms at the next scheduled meeting of City Council.
The cost of Option-1 concerned council member Betty Erhard.
“Where’s the money going to come from?” she asked. “That’s what we need to discuss.”
The city must make decisions, City Manager Ron Snowberger said.
Still, Mayor Brayton best conveyed the council’s general attitude. “I would like to see us come back and see if we can get $3.5 million for 10 years,” Brayton said. Vice Mayor Blake Bell suggested they might find the money in a 20-year agreement but Brayton said he doubted a bank would go 20 years. Bell then suggested a bank might go 15 years on the loan.