The Panama City Beach City Council approved the construction of a new $3.78 million City Hall Thursday night, with work expected to start within the next month. A groundbreaking ceremony has been set for 8 a.m. Thursday, June 28, prior to the City Council meeting.
The contract was awarded to GAC Contractors, the low bidder on the project. GAC also constructed the Police Department and Public Services building, both completed in 2016. All three structures were included in the 2014 Municipal Complex Master Plan.
The city has been saving money for several capital projects for a number of years and will pay cash for the facility.
The price includes the demolition of the existing City Hall Annex building and the Bay County Tax Collector’s Office, and the construction of additional parking spaces to be located between the current City Hall and the PCB Convention & Visitors Bureau next door. Also included in the price is the construction of a green space/public park which can be used for ceremonies and other small events.
City Manager Mario Gisbert estimated construction of the new 12,601-square-foot facility to take between six to nine months.
City staff originally recommended postponing the parking and park components of the project, but Councilmen and Mayor Mike Thomas said they preferred to do the whole project now.
"There are times when our parking lots are crowded," Thomas said. "I personally want to get the whole thing done, then proceed to relocate the police impound yard. The next section of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) includes Highway 79."
Constructing a new City Hall and the sidewalk, street and other improvements coming with the CRA project, improves the appearance of the intersection, which serves as a gateway to the city from the north and the west. "We're giving people something they can be proud of," Thomas said.
The existing City Hall was constructed in 1969-70 as a gymnasium with no windows. It became the City Hall in the mid-70s.
In 2017, ZHA provided an assessment of the City Hall Annex building as part of a capital improvement study of all city buildings and roadways. The firm identified three-quarters of a million dollars in current deficiencies in the City Hall building. Making repairs and upgrades would not satisfy the need for additional space. The City Hall Annex is 8,038 square feet. Eleven employees work in the building.
Officials said they do not expect the cost of construction to rise because building a new City Hall does not carry the same surprises that can arise with renovating an old building.
There were several additions to the project which were thrown out for cost. The city is not adding interior wood finishes or a dumb waiter to aid with records storage on the second floor for a total cost savings of $212,000.