After years of debate, and more than 30 public discussions, Carrabelle settled on a piece of property at the corner of 12th Street East and US 98, on which a new City Hall will be constructed.
City offices are inside the former the former Carrabelle School, but a damaged roof and sky-high utility bills forced city commissioners to seek a new location.
In August, commissioners voted 3-2 to purchase the 12th Street land, with Commissioners Cal Allen and Frank Mathes opposed.
The city paid $50,000 for the roughly one-acre site, its appraised value $108,000. The city closed on the deal with former owner Pat Bragdon on August 29, and agreed to display a plaque honoring Bragdon’s late husband, Alva “Sonny Boy” Bragdon, on the new building.
Mayor Brenda La Paz estimated construction would cost $737,835, with an additional $150,000 going towards site preparation and construction of a parking lot. The city opted to finance the purchase through Centennial Bank.
Choice of a site was controversial largely because there was strong public support for a downtown location. La Paz characterized the location, a block inside the city’s easternmost limits as “the gateway to Carrabelle.” In addition, Allen, who strongly opposed the new building, repeatedly argued part of the parking area lies in a flood zone.
Allen advocated for purchase of the Gulf Unmanned Systems Center (GUSC) headquarters at 206 US 98 in downtown Carrabelle. Proponents of the 12th Street site argued the GUSC building was too large, lacked handicapped access to the second floor, and was more than 20 years old and infested with termites. A subsequent inspection paid for by investors who held the deed for the GUSC building found the claim concerning termites to be untrue and the structure to be sound.
Allen said the second floor need not be handicapped compliant because the first floor was more than large enough to house the city offices. He suggested the second floor be rented out to generate income for the city.
In spite of the fact plans for the new building were complete and the land purchased, debate over constructing the new City Hall continued through the Dec. 7 city meeting,
Allen told commissioners the GUSC building could be purchased for $700,000, but commissioners voted 3-2, with Mathes and Allen opposed, to cease debate of that location.
Bids for construction of the 12th Street building will be opened at Carrabelle’s January meeting.