Since 1994, when it was constructed, certain sections of Ocoee City Hall have sunk four inches into the ground.
And its back porch has descended even more — maybe by up to six inches, Ocoee officials said.
City officials “knew they had some major problems in 2000, and it still continues to sink to this day,” Ocoee Public Works Director Steve Krug said July 3 about City Hall.
The building, however, is structurally sound, he said. Providing new support for the city headquarters is a recently completed, $35,000 project performed by the Senatore Firm, of Leesburg, to replace porch columns on the back of the building.
“Basically, some of the structural supports made out of cinder blocks were starting to deteriorate, and with the building settling, it started cracking and going off on an angle,” City Manager Rob Frank said. The Senatore Firm “brought it back to where it should be, replaced the columns and repaired damage caused by the sinking of the building.”
Frank’s second-floor office faces City Hall’s back lawn that stretches down to Lakeshore Drive and Starke Lake. Many decades ago, the water in the lake extended over much of the lawn and up to the gazebo that stands outside of the Lakeshore Center, adjacent to City Hall.
Muck left over in the area the lake receded from is the culprit causing the City Hall sinking problem, city officials said. Frank and Krug said the contractor that performed the “de-mucking” of the construction site before City Hall was built did not do an adequate job.
“They de-mucked down to a certain level, but the de-watering wasn’t accurate,” Krug said. “About 15 feet down, there is a three-foot layer of muck that continues to compress,” and the building keeps sinking.
The work performed by the Senatore Firm “has made everything structurally sound and will allow some additional movement of the porch without damaging the building,” he said. “But it’s not a permanent repair of the settlement.”
That type of solution would cost at least half a million dollars, Frank and Krug said.
“We would have to take off the porch, put in new pin piles and then rebuild the porch,” Krug said. “That would stop the settling, but it would not put the building back to where it was.”
And Frank doesn’t think that type of project would be a good investment.
“Most of the sinking has occurred,” he said.
“It’s safe,” he said about City Hall. “We’d have to condemn our own building if it wasn’t. I can’t imagine it settling to the point where it would be unsafe.”
In addition to the support work, about $40,000 worth of wood repair and repainting recently was completed on the exteriors of City Hall and its adjacent, one-story annex. C&D Construction, of Cocoa, provided these improvements.
A few miles south of City Hall stands the 18-acre site of the planned, mixed-use development known as City Center West Orange, between Bluford Avenue and Lake Bennet. The site’s developer — Park Development Corp., of Orlando — hopes to break ground on this massive project by late summer.
Plans call for the development to include hundreds of thousands of square feet worth of commercial and office space, as well as condominiums, apartments and a civic building that could serve as a new Ocoee City Hall.
But, while the City Commission occasionally has discussed the possibility, Frank said there currently are no inherent plans to build a new city hall.