The old city hall and post office will be replaced by the new building. The current city hall, which is built on slab, is sinking and cracked in parts and has been condemned, said Mayor John DeNeale. CHRIS MOONIS/Contributed

The City of Key Colony Beach (KCB) is laying its foundation for the future — literally. The city commission discussed at length whether to repair or replace Marble Hall, its current city hall, and voted unanimously to replace it. 

Mayor John DeNeale told the Weekly why it was a “no-brainer” for the commission. “The city commission voted to build a new city hall because the current city hall will be 7.9 feet below the projected new floodplain,” he said, “and it will still be an old building in a category 2 strength and won’t provide us the security for critical government facility for the future.” 

Repair isn’t a viable option, said DeNeale. He shared insight from a well-respected building contractor. The estimate for renovations are $750,000 and additional square footage $600,000. Tellingly, the contractor refused the job, said the mayor. “It would be a Band-aid job, and he didn’t want that in his city,” said DeNeale. “All-in, we’d be well over a million,” said DeNeale of renovations. “And FEMA won’t pay for it because they don’t want us building below the flood plain; the state won’t give us money; and, we’d pay more in insurance for a less resilient building.” 

Instead, KCB will build anew and save money in doing so. “When we compared all the funding streams available and what FEMA should be giving us with the age and elevation of our current building,” said city administrator Chris Moonis, “the city commission came to the decision that it is in the city’s best interest to replace the building.” 

Sitting below both current and new base flood elevation (BFE) on FEMA flood maps, KCB’s city hall qualifies as a “critical facility” since it houses police and emergency management. Because of that designation and its precariously low elevation, the city is eligible for a $3.27 million “specialized project” FEMA grant projected cost to help pay for the demolition and rebuild.

DeNeale boiled down the “funding math.” At the bottom line, after exhausting grants, appropriations, cash reserves and insurance payouts, current planning will leave KCB with an initial $227,000 bill to foot. However, the city will apply for a $500,000 state grant appropriation to elevate the new structure above the 7.9-foot BFE, which, if even partially approved, would defray some cost or cash reserve spending. 

Moonis lauded the decision as an example of how the city commission is paving the way for KCB’s future. “Key Colony Beach is not just ‘minding the store,’ if you will,” he said. “We’re laying the foundation for the future of the city. We’re anticipating what the future will hold and planning for that potential.”

“It’s a good resiliency move,” said DeNeale. “At this time next year, hopefully we’ll have demolished the old building and have a new one, on stilts!,” added the mayor.

KCB hired Livs Associates, an architecture firm based out of Coral Gables, to design the new structure. They’re currently working with feedback from the city commission and the public and plan to show their initial concept at a special town hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 6. Moonis estimated that demolition wouldn’t begin until the end of 2020, at the earliest.

KCB city commission meetings are open to the public and held the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 9:30 a.m. at Marble Hall.

The new city hall is being designed with these elements in mind:

  • Following FEMA Specialized Project proposal
  • 11,000 square feet to replace current Marble Hall and post office
  • Elevated building with parking beneath
  • 200-person auditorium with a kitchen the size of current Marble Hall

 


POSITIONED FOR SUCCESS

As part of KCB’s strategic expansion, the city has created a new role, intended to help the city grow, with an eye on what changes need to be taken to prepare for the coming decades.

The KCB city commission approved the new executive assistant position in this year’s budget and hired Saara Staten to fill it. City administrator Chris Moonis said the role was created to help the city “get some vision and look into the future.” Staten brings experience as a paralegal. Moonis praised her attention to detail, technical support capabilities and ability to research and problem-solve quickly. These assets will be critical as KCB renovates city hall and otherwise begins preparing for the future, explained Moonis.

“Saara will manage projects we just haven’t been able to address at a professional level, and put together programs the city can then decide to move forward on,” Moonis added. Her addition has allowed the city to tackle complex challenges proactively, such as how best to update the city’s comprehensive plan and city code of ordinances.

“I’m very proud of where the city is headed,” added Moonis. “With the new city hall and hiring Saara to help us with research and support, we’re looking more than just a couple years ahead of us. We’re looking 10, 20 years. It’s great.”

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