Site work is expected to begin on the new building this month.
In a move aimed at addressing longstanding deficiencies, lack of ADA requirements and a growing workforce, Plant City has embarked on a project to construct a spacious, modern 15,000 square-foot office building that will house both the Utilities and Solid Waste Departments.
The new building will include outdoor patios, retention ponds and 76 parking spaces to meet code requirements.
The existing facility at 1802 Spooner Drive, housing more than 50 city employees, has served the city for decades but has become increasingly inadequate, requiring significant repairs and renovations. According to Utilities Director Lynn Spivey, an evaluation showed that the cost to fix the issues was nearly as much as tearing the building down and erecting a new structure. “The number one problem is that the building isn’t ADA compliant,” said Spivey. “Even if we renovated, we’d have had to bring it up to current codes.”
Wheelchairs won’t fit in the restrooms. There’s no way to travel from the first to thesecond floor, which was added onto the building more than a decade ago, without using the stairs.
The list of deficiencies goes on from there. A leaking roof has caused mold to form around ceilings, walls and doorways. Employees on the second floor work with the lights off because water sometimes get trapped in fixtures. Electrical issues prevent employees from using the washer and dryer at the same time, used to clean employee uniforms, often caked with dirt, sewage and other materials.
For administration employees, who are scattered throughout the building and occupy cavernous rooms and small nooks, the layout isn’t conducive to effective work. “There’s not even a large enough room to have a staff meeting,” said Solid Waste Director Jill Sessions.
That will soon change.
The new structure will be located at 902 N. Mobley St., adjacent to the current building, and will address safety needs such as hurricane hardening, a generator and fire sprinkler system, code and ordinance requirements related to parking spaces, landscape and retention ponds and address functional needs such as state-of-the-art WiFi capability (the current building has limited WiFi) technology, a large multi-purpose meeting room and storage space and a wash-down locker room with a drain. The building will also be able to accommodate the growth of the Utilities and Solid Waste Departments for decades to come.
“The Solid Waste Department will occupy one side of the building, Utilities Maintenance Department the other and there will be a shared space in between to make the flow better for employees and visitors,” said Sessions.
The city commission approved a work order in March 2021 for The Lunz Group to design a new office building. The city went through a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) Procurement process and Manhattan Construction Company was approved by the city commission in July 2022. In September, the city commission authorized the city manager to execute a construction contract with the company for the Guaranteed Maximum Price of $7,958,670 for the new facility. Adding the City-procured needs for fiber communication installation ($300,000); security, furniture and appliances ($400,000); construction engineering services ($150,000) and project contingency ($354,530), the total project cost estimate is $9,163,200.
At the commission meeting where the project was discussed, Commissioner Dodson praised the city’s sound financial management. “The good news is our city is in an exceptional circumstance enabling us to move forward with this project,” he said.
The city, anticipating the need, has been setting aside money for the project for more than a decade. The cost is split between the Water/Sewer Fund and Solid Waste Fund.
Spivey and Sessions estimate construction will begin before the end of this year with completion in late 2024 or early 2025. Demolition of the existing building will be budgeted separately in fiscal year 2025.
Spivey and Sessions assure residents that their service won’t be affected while the new building is under construction. “We’ll be able to watch it being constructed and it won’t interrupt our work,” said Sessions.