Brooksville City Council members voted 4-1 to rebuild the Department of Public Works (DPW) /Utilities Complex located at 600 S Brooksville Ave (Brooksville, FL 34601). During the roll call vote, Council Member Betty Erhard was the dissenting vote. The matter has been debated in several previous meetings since May of 2021 when the ceiling partially collapsed in the current DPW facility.
In January the council decided to delay the vote on solving the DPW facility issue until they had further details on the loan and interest rates.
The council was given three options for solving the issue:
Option 1: Build 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: 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. Build 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 the demolition of the existing office building. Estimated cost: $1.781 million.
On Feb. 7, City Manager Ron Snowberger introduced the agenda item to the council, stating that, “The City does have a viable mechanism for funding the project through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).” These funds are expected to fund $4 million dollars worth of projects that would have normally come out of General and Enterprise funds. The $4 million would then be applied to a new 30,000 square foot DPW Building, anticipated to cost $3.5 million.
Financing the new building is still in question, with several loan options available. According to Finance Director Autumn Sullivan, interest rate information was obtained from the city’s bank approximately one month ago, and the interest rates may have changed, or could change in the future. No decision was made on the amount or term of a loan.
Available Loan Options presented at the meeting:
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Source: 516_516_DPW_Building_Estimated_Loan_Cost_(1).pdf, City Council Agenda dated February 7, 2022
The existing structure was built in 1944, and has reportedly reached the end of its useful life, and is exhibiting failures within the structural and mechanical systems. A report submitted with the February 7, 2022 agenda also cites a lack of space to meet the needs of several departments housed in the building.
The current building is home to the Department of Public Works (DPW) (Streets, Traffic, Stormwater, Fleet Services, Facilities, and Administration) and the Municipal Utilities Department (Water, Wastewater, and Sanitation).
Erhard stated that she believes the building could be repaired, particularly the fleet and equipment repair area, where she sees the biggest need. “The rest of the building is functional … The city is not in the position financially to build a new DPW.”
Councilmember Robert Battista focused on the age of the structure. A new facility has an approximate life expectancy of 50 years. “If we don’t build a new building, this one will be 128 years old in 50 years. Somewhere along the line, I guarantee you we’re going to have to build a new building … it will never be cheaper. It needs to be done.”
The existing facility will not be completely leveled to make room for the new one. According to Public Works Director Paul Booth, the front administration area and metal structure will be leveled, but the rear warehouse and firehouse will remain. Rear buildings will also be redeveloped into a secure parking area for the departments’ fleet.
The new building is expected to contain administrative offices, a training room, conference room, locker room, break area, warehouse space, and a 4-bay garage.
“We don’t need all those amenities,” Erhard remarked, citing that the City of Brooksville has a much smaller population than major cities. “Why do we need a $4 million DPW building?”
Snowberger responded, “[Brooksville is] a charter city, and as such, we have responsibilities to our employees, we have responsibilities to the citizens. We are fixed to embark on over $4 million worth of infrastructure improvements, and we’ve already had many infrastructure improvements. The lion share of the employees that actually work on that infrastructure work out of that facility, and that facility is deplorable, and is substandard by any city standards.”
Snowberger went on to say, “One of the issues that we somehow tend to get into is — we ask for information from professional engineers, public works directors, and then somehow, someway, we feel that we know more than the engineers that are giving us the information.”
Battista noted that since the Utilities Department shares the building, a certain portion of the funding would come from the Enterprise fund, rather than the General Fund. “That lessens the pain a little bit.”