Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Growth Pains for City Structural Woes Plague City Hall

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Growth Pains for City Structural Woes Plague City Hall

Article excerpt

GREEN COVE SPRINGS --- Cracks stretch across the aging walls and puddles of water stand in the dank basement.

Floors sag and groan under the weight of office equipment, documents and employees.

City Hall is moaning for renovation or retirement.

"I'm sentimental about keeping City Hall in the downtown area," Councilman Richard Hobbs said. "But something has to be done. The building isn't in good shape."

Structural problems also have affected residents doing business at City Hall. Yellow cautionary tape signaled trouble as workers carefully tore down a decrepit porch overhang last month.

The building sits on Walnut Street in the heart of Spring Park, which features a historic sulfur spring. Originally built as a recreation facility in the 1930s, the building became the city's headquarters around 1948.

"It isn't in imminent danger of collapsing," City Manager Don Bowles said. "This building was never constructed to hold things like file cabinets. We wouldn't have these problems if they'd built this a block away from the spring."

The spring flows into the swimming pool behind City Hall and into the St. Johns River. Experts said the soil around the spring is soft and has contributed to foundation problems. In some parts of the building, water flows directly under the cement basement floor, according to structural engineers.

Engineers estimated the city could spend as much as $500,000 to stabilize the building and make necessary architectural upgrades, including new wiring.

Even if the council votes to rehabilitate the building, engineers said there are no guarantees the problems won't return in 10 years.

The city has unofficially earmarked $1.7 million for City Hall rehabilitation or relocation. The windfall came from the 1996 sale of a geriatric care center that it sold bonds to construct 20 years earlier.

"One thing we are going to have to look at is whether staying in the building is financially feasible," Councilwoman Virginia Steinmetz said. "The current City Hall facility isn't ADA-accessible and it isn't big enough. We've got staff falling all over each other and I hate to see people working like that. …

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