They say you can’t fight City Hall – but Fort Lauderdale City Hall lost its own fight against nature.
The recent torrential rains that created massive flooding in Fort Lauderdale and eastern Broward County have ended the life of the current City Hall building at 100 North Andrews Ave., city officials say.
Next week, city employees will clear out their personal belongings from their offices as efforts are being made to find new office space for city personnel, according to Ashley Doussard, City of Fort Lauderdale spokesperson.
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For now, some are working from their homes while others are working from other city office locations.
“The (City) Commission has given direction that they don't want to move back into the existing city hall building,” Doussard told City & State. “The estimated cost to repair the building (is) between $40 million and $50 million. This was not a minor flood.”
It's not clear what the replacement cost for a city hall would be. There had been talk last year about a complex that would house both Broward County and Fort Lauderdale governments but that went nowhere after the construction cost was estimated at almost $1 billion.
It's possible federal assistance could be used. On Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would ask for "a Major Disaster Declaration for Broward County due to the catastrophic impacts of unprecedented flooding in Southeast Florida," a statement from his office said.
"If granted by the White House, a Major Disaster Declaration will provide a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure damaged by the floods," it added.
Meantime, there was about eight feet of water in the basement of the 1960s-era building during the recent storms. That's where the electrical and air conditioning systems are located, and both were severely damaged.
It now is costing $175,000 a day to keep the building running “on life support” – a cost commissioners and administrators do not want to bear. The city has already spent $3.2 million to keep the building running, just at reduced capacity, records show.
The estimated cost to bring the building back to habitability is $40 million to $50 million, Doussard said.
There has been discussion about building a new city hall for years; the latest damage no doubt will revive those considerations. During a recent meeting, District 1 Commissioner John Herbst suggested signing a lease for office space nearby till the current city hall can be demolished and replaced.
David Volz has been a reporter for numerous community news publications throughout South Florida over the past two decades, as well as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and South Florida Business Journal. He covers local government, schools, sports, culture, faith groups and workplaces.