The Pinellas County Commission heard a report on available space for operations and the condition of county-owned buildings at its meeting today, and it was not good news.
During Thursday’s work session meeting, county commissioners heard the results of a report on potential space for operations conducted by Stantec Consulting Services. The space study is part of the Pinellas County Facilities Master Plan, and Stantec has worked on the project for the last 18 months. Stantec conducted conditional assessments on all county-owned buildings, held interviews with stakeholders and focus groups, and established workspace standards as the county moves forward.
Sydney Hamilton, senior planner for Stantec, explained to commissioners that the company conducted physical assessments of 23 county buildings and identified future space needs. The physical assessments addressed everything from mechanical system inspections to code compliance issues. None of the 23 buildings were rated as “excellent,” although 43% were labeled “good.” The majority of county-owned buildings – 57% – were listed as “fair” or “poor.”
“Most of your buildings are below the 50% mark in terms of their physical conditions,” said Hamilton. “That might also have code implications moving forward.”
Hamilton then displayed a map highlighting county buildings in the downtown Clearwater area. She told commissioners that “most of these buildings had seen better days” and had reached a point where they are no longer suitable for use.
Commission Chair Dave Eggers noted how the main county building was listed as “fair/good,” while the county buildings across the street to the north were listed as “good.” Hamilton explained the rankings were an average of the assessment criteria, and while a building may look like it is in good condition from the street, there could be internal issues that would lower its ratings. She could not offer specific details at the meeting, although detailed reports are available to county staff.
“I’m just amazed that you’re considering the 315 Court St. building to be in good shape,” interjected Commissioner Janet Long. “I’m very curious as to what standard you’re using.”
Long said that for many years, the commission has tried to upgrade things such as the security system and the cooling and heating system, along with many other antiquated features of the building. She added it needs a new façade, and all of the windows need replacing.
“I’m thinking, if that’s good, I sure would like to see,” began Long before trailing off.
Hamilton told Long that a “good” rating was still below an “excellent” rating, which is the goal. She added that particular building was “fair slash good, which is below average.”
“It’s not a favorable rating,” said Hamilton.
County Administrator Barry Burton pointed out to the commission that the condition assessment was just one factor in determining whether the county should stay in a location and invest in improvements or move to a new site. Eggers replied that while it is just one data point, the high cost associated with improving a building is a big driver of the decision-making process.
“These buildings that are in bad condition, as Commissioner Justice said, replacing capital on those buildings is prohibitive almost,” said Eggers. “To me, it becomes almost like an obsolete building.”
Costs associated with upgrading the buildings to suitable standards are included in the detailed report. Eggers also noted that buildings included in the report are those under consideration for consolidation into other sites.
“The general point of this slide is to say your downtown buildings have seen better days,” concluded Hamilton.