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MOUNT DORA, FL-This New England-styled city of 9,418 permanent residents and an estimated winter tourist population of 30,000, 28 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando, doesn’t do things in a hurry, especially when the construction of a new city hall building is concerned.

The city has been thinking about a new building or expansion since 1997.

After years of laboring in cramped quarters, city hall staff and council members agree an expansion of the 37-year-old, 6,500-sf, Colonial-styled structure at 510 Baker St. is imminent. But not at the expense of eliminating the building’s graceful appearance, residents complain.

So they shot down an architect’s conceptual drawing for a new 21,000-sf building whose hard construction cost would come in at $3.1 million or about $148 per sf.

The residents’ major complaint: The new building looked liked a jumbo shoebox, out of character with the city, which is being promoted internationally as a major retail antiques center.

Meanwhile, the city is budgeting $1.6 million for renovations on the existing building, which is in violation of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act by not having wheelchair-accessible restrooms or building entrances that wheelchair-borne residents or guests may safely enter.

There also is no elevator in the three-story building and no fire escape. Sixteen staffers work in the building. Various city offices lease space at privately-owned Downtown commercial buildings.

“The time has come for the city to get off its duff,” a longtime resident tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “But it won’t, so long as the existing political establishment is in power and afraid to move against activist property-owner groups.”

City officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline but a local real estate lawyer not associated with city hall tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity that the council is “aware of the building’s deficiencies and plans to do something about them” before year’s end. That’s when Mayor James Yatsuk and three council members are up for reelection.

City officials confirm they are using a $4.9 million bond issue to finance $1.9 million for a new recreation center; $1 million for community building renovations; $500,000 for public safety administration space; and $1.6 million for city hall renovations.

City council is also considering buying the adjacent Regency Apartments at 525 Tremain St. for new office quarters. But an asking price for the 10,000-sf property of $1.4 million and estimated renovations of $1.6 million would bring the final acquisition cost to $3 million, about the same as the proposed new city hall building.

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