TAMPA - The Tampa Police Department's 10-story downtown headquarters on Franklin and Madison streets is distinctive for the dark blue panels that cover all four sides.
On closer inspection, some of the blue panels that form what is known as a curtain wall are so worn, city officials said, they could fall out and into the street.
The city has requested an emergency replacement of the damaged exterior panels "which are currently posing a hazard by the possibility of falling out of frames," according to a contract approved last week by the Tampa City Council.
The damaged panels also could allow "moisture intrusion into interior offices," resulting in "indoor quality issues," the contract said.
Two panels on the south side of the 52-year-old building at 411 N. Franklin St. have chunks missing from the bottom corners and rust peeking out from under the blue facade.
The city council has approved $395,275 to fix the curtain wall.
The number of damaged panels is unknown, but structural engineers will "evaluate, remove and replace said panels on the south elevation" of the building, the emergency contract said.
Completion of the first phase of the project is expected by October, David Vaughn, director of the city's contract department, said in a memorandum.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn set aside $1 million to begin repairing the panels this year and to replace the building's windows in 2014.
The panels' repair is the latest renovation to a building that once was the home of SunTrust Bank. Last year, the police department's first-floor lobby was completely refurbished; an escalator at the front entrance that led to the second floor was torn out and replaced by a staircase.
The police department also plans to break ground in the fall on a new $3.5 million gun range that will be an extension of a training center near East Clark and North 34th streets, which it shares with Tampa Fire Rescue.
In August, Buckhorn outlined five years of proposed police construction projects, one of which includes $44 million in 2015 to renovate and possibly reconstruct police headquarters.
The department's earlier headquarters at 1710 N. Tampa St. was demolished as decrepit and vermin-infested. Employees complained of chronic coughing and cold-like symptoms. A 1992 report found dangerous levels of asbestos, plaster falling from walls and soot stains on the ceiling.
In 1995, then-mayor Dick Greco proposed a three-year, half-cent sales tax increase that would have paid for a new $41 million police headquarters in Ybor City.
But voters rejected the proposal and Greco had to scramble. He brokered a deal with SunTrust Bank officials for the 10-story building on North Franklin Street after the bank moved its employees to the pyramid-topped SunTrust Financial Centre at East Jackson Street.
"It was the perfect location," Greco said Wednesday. "To have police headquarters downtown, with the big sign that everybody can see, that's something."
The city paid $3 million for the building and another $14 million to renovate it for law enforcement use. But office furnishings did not come with that price tag, Greco said.
Greco organized a fundraising campaign to collect another $1.5 million to outfit the building with furniture and other equipment.