January 21, 2011 | 6:36am
Mike Butler is facing an uphill battle. He's the blogger and gadfly of record in Hallandale Beach (the 40,000-citizen heel of the Broward boot), and he's the one who calls out the city for spending through its reserve funds, paying its city manager nearly half a million bucks a year, and leaving the beach in suboptimal conditions.
He's been asking questions lately about the city's North Beach facility, a planned event space inside the former sales center for the Beach Club residences on A1A. Nearly four years ago, the Beach Club vacated the space and, as planned, gave it to the city to take over. "All it needed was an ADA-compliant bathroom," says Butler. It got a lot more than that.
The plans eventually called for a fairly extensive remodeling, including raising the ceiling heights. Former City Manager Mike Good created a new city department, modeled after the Department of Public Works, to orchestrate the conversion. Director John Chidsey would oversee the progress.
Butler watched as Chidsey came before the City Commission with progress reports, month after month, that repeatedly pushed back the expected dates of completion. From Butler's blog:
"First floor will be complete by October 30. Second floor will be complete by November 30."
"Completion of first floor is anticipated by January 30, 2010 and second floor by February - March 2010."
"Completion of first floor is anticipated by February 28, 2010 and second floor by April 2010."
"The second floor shall be complete by May 31."
The center is finally scheduled to open on Tuesday, January 25, with a party at 5:30 p.m. Total cost of renovations: around $275,000. But according to Butler, city employees were already partying
in the center months ago.
On Wednesday night, Hallandale City Commissioner Keith London held a forum to answer questions about the facility (as well as about a new zoning law affecting some of the city's wealthiest residents).
Explaining the renovations of the facility, City Manager Mark Antonio said, "The building was a sales center that was donated, and the design wasn't conducive to a municipal facility... [but now] we're very proud of it." The city plans to rent it out for special events like weddings and not use it as a public cultural center. Commissioner London questioned that, suggesting that more public access should be available for a building that taxpayers paid for.
"I'm not going to answer that here," said Antonio. "That's your opinion, and I have my opinion."
Why was it delayed so many times, and for 40-odd months?
"I'm not going to look back; I'm looking forward," said Antonio.
That's the kind of vision you get for $422,000 a year. Speaking of vision: Butler asked why there hasn't been one public meeting about the future of the building.
"We're having a visioning meeting on the 28th of this month," London assured him.
Somebody bring the peyote.
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