The city commission, at its Aug. 9 meeting, reached a consensus to put plans for a proposed first-floor expansion of the Lighthouse Point Library out to bid.
The first-floor addition would serve as a children’s wing. If carried out, the project would be funded with the 2018 voter-approved bond issue. It would replace the city’s original plan to build out the library’s second floor using bond proceeds.
The children’s wing would extend into a portion of the parking lot to the north of the library. It would be an 1,800-square-foot, one-story stand-alone building that connects back to the existing library building with an enclosed corridor. The children’s wing would also have an outside entrance and its own bathroom, so it could be used at night completely independent of City Hall. There would be a new paver plaza in front of the building that could be used for yoga.
The alternate first-floor project was developed after it was determined that converting the second floor into a community room (roughly 1,200 square feet) would not be cost effective due to unanticipated challenges, including the logistics of keeping the library open during the upstairs construction.
Last year, Kaufman Lynn Construction, the firm hired to serve as the construction manager for the bond projects, was asked to price the second-floor buildout of the library. The estimated project cost was over $1 million, compared to the city’s original budgeted project cost of approximately $600,000.
The proposed first-floor expansion project received site plan approval from the planning and zoning board in May, subject to a strong concern about a lack of sufficient parking. The project was approved by the community appearance board in April.
At the Aug. 9 city commission meeting, William Gallo, of Gallo Herbert Architects, who was hired as the city’s representative to oversee the bond projects, said he estimates the first-floor expansion bid cost would be $982,363, based on the current escalation of construction costs.
During the discussion regarding whether to put the project out to bid or not, Commission Vice President Sandy Johnson and Commissioner Patty Petrone suggested the city look into adapting Dixon Ahl Hall or the old fire station for the library’s uses, which would be less expensive than building the new library addition. They also expressed concern about the increased parking deficit at the Lighthouse Point City Hall complex that would result from the project.
Commissioner Michael Long noted current supply chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation and suggested tabling the item for six months, which might result in better pricing.
“I still like this project, but I also want to be fiscally conservative,” said Long.
Commission President Jason Joffe said he was in favor of putting the project out to bid to find out how much it would cost.
“I don’t understand how we as a commission, or how city administration, can justify no improvements to the library, after the residents voted on that bond,” said Joffe.
Commissioner Everett Marshall said he did not see a problem with at least going out to bid “to see where we stand.”
After additional discussion about the possibility of repurposing Dixon Ahl Hall or the old fire station as a cheaper alternative, City Attorney Mike Cirullo pointed out that, based on his discussions with bond counsel, it is unlikely the city would be able to use the bond money to do a library annex at another building, because the project was presented to voters as an addition to the library itself.
Commissioner Petrone concluded that the first-floor expansion project should be put out to bid to see how much it will cost, and then the commission can make a decision. Based on the information provided by the city attorney, Commissioner Johnson also said the project should go out to bid to get a price.
The first-floor expansion project was put out to bid on Aug. 14, and proposals are due by Sept. 14. A discussion of the bid results is expected to take place at the first city commission meeting in October.
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