Florida Keys News
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Town hall price tag: $5M-plus

MARATHON -- Five million dollars to $5.6 million. That's the estimated price tag for the new Marathon City Hall designed by Key West architect William Horn, which will house city offices as well as a cultural/conference center.

The cost was calculated on a $382 average cost per square foot, based on the costs of building the Grassy Key and Stock Island fire stations, both designed by Horn.

During last week's special call meeting, Horn listed several amenities the city could opt out of, thereby reducing the cost. They include eliminating dormers and covered patios, dropping the raised building to grade and building a smaller conference center. Deducting these items from the plan would save an estimated $800,000.

Horn revealed renderings for five plans for the new building and parking areas, highlighting the pros and cons of each from his perspective.

Following Horn's presentation, members of the community voiced their opinions. Some criticism was focused on the lack of renewable resources and what was believed to be excessive lighting. The council previously requested a focus on being "green." .

Councilman Chris Bull said he hopes future drafts of the design include cisterns and solar panels.

Several residents questioned the need for a 200-seat conference center, calling it overkill. They cautioned the council to be conservative, carefully weighing wants versus needs and questioned how the city can afford the project's expense.

Several asked for the cost of building a City Hall only. Horn's estimated cost per square foot includes parking areas and landscaping.

Former Mayor Pete Worthington, however, strongly endorsed rendering No. 1 of a one-story building above a parking level, containing a 200-seat conference room.

"This building will be here for a minimum of 50 years. I wouldn't scrimp," he said.

Marathon Finance Director Peter Rosasco addressed the cost concerns. The city, he said, has an outstanding loan that was originally $10 million, upon which it pays 4.1 percent interest. The remaining balance is currently less than $5 million.

Rosasco recommended borrowing an additional $5.5 to $6 million for a term of 15 years, citing an interest rate of 2.5 percent or less. He cautioned those in attendance that interest rates will not remain as low as they are today.

Councilmember Dick Ramsay expressed support of the rendering endorsed by Worthington. He supports moving forward, but only if the city decides to sell its property at 104th Street, which has been unused for years. He suggested that bidders prepare one proposal on building the project as designed by Horn and another on building just the City Hall portion.

Ramsay's colleagues also endorsed rendering No. 1 and voted unanimously to direct staff to prepare drawings which will soon be sent out for bids.

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