Thursday, December 22, 2005

What Happened to City Hall?

By now you should know that Lauderhill suffered significant damage from Hurricane Wilma. Most of the damage has been already repaired so that the facilities have reopened. However, our City Hall sustained damage beyond a quick fix up. The damage is great enough that we have had to vacate the premises to a temporary facility until future decisions can be made regarding City Hall.

City Hall had been planned to received several million dollars of normal repairs in the next few years. This is because the building has had roof, mold and a/c problems for some time. There were also other problems as well. As a 25 year old building, it has not held up well, and is not designed to withstand hurricanes, being built pre-Andrew.

Hurricane Wilma shattered several windows in the building, drenching the interior. Additionally, there were roof leaks, and ceilings fell. The mold that was in facade on the exterior is feared to have now penetrated the interior, which could result in a sick building.

So, Lauderhill must consider its options of what to do with City Hall. Basically, there are 3 options under discussion:

#1) Repair the present City Hall. Advantages are that it would be the quickest answer. Disadvantages are that the cost may not be worth the trouble or may even exceed the cost of other options. After repaired, it would still not be very sound for hurricanes, and therefore this issue may come up again in the future. Additionally, other options may have significant benefits to the city. It is still possible that we may institute temporary repairs to use the facility until another option is completed.

#2) Tear down the present City Hall and rebuild on the same site. Advantages would be that we would have a better building. Disadvantages are its location, loss of benefits from other options, the cost, and the time of construction (which would probably exceed the time of Option 3).

#3) Rebuild a new City Hall on Oakland Park Blvd. Advantages are that it may be the most cost effective option, give us a better location for City Hall in a major business district, and allow us to spur other economic development. It will also give us a building that is designed to withstand hurricanes. Disadvantages are that it will cost money and time.

If we built a new City Hall on Oakland Park Blvd., where would it be? There are 2 parcels that are being brought up. The parcel adjacent to the Police Station, which we own, or at the Old Publix building which is scheduled to be torn down. The land where the present City Hall is situated could be sold for development of new housing, which would reduce the cost substantially for a new City Hall. Of course the city would retain the park area next to City Hall. Construction could take 1 1/2 to 2 years to complete.

To otherwise pay for the answer, the city does have insurance, FEMA and its own funds available (particularly the monies we will not be spending for the repairs described above). There probably are some other creative financing arrangements that could be worked out. This would include involving our new CRA district for this area.

The strength of the situation is that in the end, the result of building a new building will be something of extraordinary benefit to the city, from a situation which was a major disaster. In the long run, depending on the answer chosen, it may work out better for the city than if we had maintained status quo at our present site.

No decisions have been made on how this should be resolved. Discussions are underway and studies are being made to evaluate damage, cost of repairs, and alternatives. At some point a decision will be made by the Commission. The next time discussion on this matter will come up is at our Annual Retreat on January 19 from 10 AM to 3 PM.

Comments are appreciated to get your input to the Commission, but until all of the information is available, it is difficult for the Commission to make any final decisions. Though a decision is needed quickly, preferably in the next 3 months, the situation is still fluid, and without answers an educated decision is difficult.

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