MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Monday through Friday each week, more than 500 county employees utilize the parking garage connected to the county administration building in Manatee County.

A 2021 inspection by a third-party engineering firm found the structure’s lifespan has been cut short. The parking garage was built in the late 1980s, but county officials say it has fallen into disrepair as a result of “deferred maintenance.”

“The fact of the matter is it is a concrete and steel parking garage. We live in a very moist, humid environment and there perhaps had been a period of deferred maintenance which resulted in water intrusion into the concrete, causing the steel to begin to deteriorate,” County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said. “That assessment has been done and we have a few years before we actually need to take aggressive action.”

The structure remains in use as of now. County officials say it is “safe to park in.”

“The maintenance plan was not put in place in the late 80s and it wasn’t put in place in the 90s and it wasn’t put in place in the 2000s so the ball was sort of dropped by an awful lot of people over a very long period of time and now this board has just been sort of handed the problem and has to find a very expensive solution in the short term,” Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge said.

The engineering report dated December 2021 said inspectors found “multiple and extensive locations of hollow sounds, cracks and spalls” on both the tops and bottoms of the garage. The third-party firm also suggested “major, invasive repair involving concrete removal and replacement” and recommends that work be completed in the next “18 to 24 months.”

Dr. Hopes said in a meeting Tuesday it is in the best interest of the county and the taxpayers to demolish the existing garage and rebuild a new one. The cost to do so is estimated at $34 million.

“The report made recommendations for needed corrective action to the parking garage, but it would only buy us five to seven years of useful life where a new parking garage, we can expect to get 50 or more years out of it,” said Dr. Hopes.

County officials say there is no official timeline for demolition or construction as plans are still in the works. Dr. Hopes said it is possible work could begin late next year.

“Within a few years, it would become a safety concern. We are not there yet, so we will spend the next 12 months designing a new parking garage and determining alternative sources to park,” said the county administrator.