BOCA RATON – More than a month has passed since the Boca Raton Historical and Museum Society turned to city council and applied for an unexpected grant of nearly $ 600,000 to cover major renovations to the building.
On Monday, after much debate, the board reached a consensus to go ahead with the request.
As the discussion unfolded, council wondered if the city could have done the renovations worth $ 590,033 at a lower cost. It became evident that it was difficult to make a fair estimate.
“It’s always easier on Monday morning to decide which game should have been the Sunday afternoon game,” Deputy City Manager Mike Woika said. “But I think if you look at the direct and indirect costs, it looks like maybe there were different decisions that could have been made. But again, it’s very difficult to look at the documentation now for be able to apply it to a project that took place last year. “
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Building officials discovered last year that the Old Town Hall, which dates from 1927 and is home to the historic society, needed extensive plumbing, foundation and electrical work.
The cast iron pipes had disintegrated and left two bathrooms without a connection to the sewer system. Water had run under the building and started to undermine the foundation. And the erosion seems to have caused cracks in the center of the historic building.
As the historical society rushed to fix issues, the project went way over budget. The historical society invested $ 1.1 million in the renovations, in addition to using a previous city grant of $ 650,000.
The deputy city manager said staff verified that the historical society spent $ 585,253 on renovations. However, he declined to say that any money could have been saved if the city had been involved in the project.
“It’s very difficult to go back now and try to reconstruct how things went,” Woika said. “We got a good amount of material from the historical society and looked at it. It is clear that there was additional work that was needed to consolidate the foundation, for example, replace the sewer line, but because we weren’t there day in and day out, it’s very difficult to piece it together to give you an idea of what that amount would have been if we had been involved. “
The board agreed that it would be wrong to withhold money without proof that the renovations were too expensive.
“We could go back and forth trying to see, ‘If there had been different management or different oversight, would that have been $ 150,000? Maybe it would have been the case, “said Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke.” Maybe that is a lesson to be learned. But at this point the job is done and we have the documentation. I don’t really see that we have a choice at this point. “
With the museum set to reopen in November, the historical society was delighted to learn that it would receive another large grant from the city.
“It’s a city building,” said Mary Csar, president and executive director of the Boca Raton Historical Society. “I understand that the money they spend is public money and they have to be very careful. But I think the money has been well spent and when we open it will be a big draw.”
Mayor Scott Singer admitted there could have been better communication between the council and the historical society.
“I won’t even go so far as to say a mistake was made,” Singer said. “I think it’s just that we’re wiser now. Maybe the lesson is that if people apply for a grant and they run the project, they take the risk if it is a grant. installation of the city. Otherwise, we manage it from the start. Perhaps this will serve us for the next application that will be presented. “