Commission puts rec center improvement project on hold

SH Community Center

The Safety Harbor City Commission decided on Monday to hold off making a decision about a $1.2 million renovation of the city’s community center until after its upcoming budget session, which takes place in late July.

The Safety Harbor City Commission put off approving a contract on Monday that would trigger a $1.2 million improvement project for the city’s community recreation center until after its annual budget session next month.

The decision came during the discussion of an agenda item where Cardno, Inc. was seeking approval of an agreement that would pay the Clearwater consulting firm more than $100,000 for designing the project.

While the commission approved Cardno’s evaluation of the project last June, Mayor Andy Steingold said the results of the company’s findings come at a time when the city has a number of capital improvement and parkland projects in the works, leading him to suggest postponing the vote.

“I’d kinda like to see this go into our budget discussions, because there are other issues we want to deal with, unless the commission unanimously says it wants to go forward tonight and say this is a priority over other capital improvement projects we have,” Steingold said after being told the budget for the project was nearly $1.2 million: $850,000 for the construction costs, $285,000 for equipment and other ancillary items, plus $101,035 for Cardno’s plans.

A screenshot of Cardno Inc.'s design plans for the Safety Harbor Community Center, which include a 1,800-sq.ft. fitness center with a glass wall, patio, retention pond and other upgrades.

A screenshot of Cardno Inc.’s design plans for the Safety Harbor Community Center, which include a new, 1,800-sq.-ft. fitness center with a glass wall, a patio area, a retention pond and other interior and exterior upgrades.

Those plans include building an 1,800-square foot fitness center featuring a glass wall that faces the intersection of Seventh Street and Ninth Avenue. The project also calls for a retention pond on the corner, clusters of oak trees, and other interior and exterior upgrades, including new fitness equipment.

While the commissioners universally praised the plans, they also questioned certain aspects of the project, including the public’s accessibility to the facility, inadequate bathrooms and a lack of locker rooms, and the amount of revenue the center is expected to generate.

“Do you have projections out with how many members you’re expected to have?” Commissioner Carlos Diaz asked. “Because I think that would be kind of important.”

After Diaz was told the projections would be provided to the commission in the near future, the mayor again suggested postponing any decision on the issue.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.

“My only suggestion is, we’re getting ready to handle a big budget and it would be nice if we had everything in front of us at one time,” Steingold said.

“If this was going to be smaller budget project it would be easier to deal with it this evening, but I think once we begin to go down this path, we’re committed to a lot of money.”

“You’re right,” Commissioner Cliff Merz concurred. “There’s a lot of discussions coming up about capital projects.”

When a representative of Cardno said that it wouldn’t be a problem for them to wait for a decision until after the July 25 session, the commission gave its consensus to move the item to a later date.

The Safety Harbor Community Center is located at 650 9th Ave. S.

The Safety Harbor Community Center is located at 650 9th Avenue South.

After the meeting, the mayor expanded on the reason behind the decision.

“We have a number of projects in the works right now, including the Waterfront Park, Cedar Street Park, the Folly Farms property and the passive preserve behind the Harborside Church, and that’s not including the upcoming library expansion and other capital improvement projects,” Steingold said.

“And while I’m in favor of improving the community center, I think it’s a great project, it’s tough to commit all this money to so many projects at the same time.”

“I think it’s best if we use the budget session next month to get our priorities in order, and then we’ll make decisions from there.”

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