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County Concedes What Palm Coast Has Been Saying for Months: Sales Tax Plan a No-Go

| July 17, 2012

County commissioner Barbara Revels says there were not enough mattresses in the county jail last week after a big sweep of pill pushers. (© FlaglerLive)

A jail divided against itself cannot stand. The Flagler County Commission is making sure of it, failing again Tuesday evening to agree on the soundest way to pay for a jail expansion.

Not only are Flagler County’s cities opposed to the way the county is wanting to renew a half-cent sales tax (the county would shift more revenue to itself, and away from cities). The county commission itself has been divided over the right approach. Commissioners were scheduled to place the measure on the November ballot Tuesday evening. They didn’t, agreeing only that their current plan won’t work. They will send their administrator through out yet another series of administrative meetings with the cities to come up with yet another possible compromise that may win the cities’ help. And they’ll return to the issue on July 31.

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What the commission essentially did Tuesday evening was concede that its current plan is not workable: without the cities’ support, it’ll fail. The county wants the cities’ support. Judging from commissioners’ shifts Tuesday evening, the county wants that support  even if it means compromising (or caving) to the cities demand that the revenue sharing formula remain in the cities’ favor.

Currently, the annual $4 million revenue from the sales tax is split this way: Palm Coast gets 64 percent, the county gets 29 percent, and the smaller cities get the rest. The plan the county had submitted for the renewal of the sales tax would have reduced Palm Coast’s share to 50 percent and increased the county’s share to 45 percent. Palm Coast’s repeated response over the last few weeks could be reduced to three simple words: no bloody way.

But county commissioners—namely, Alan Peterson, George Hanns and Barbara Revels—persisted, and as recently as last week that plurality pushed ahead with the plan.

Then Hanns, not normally a decider on the commission, revealed his change of heart. In a long, discursive comment that touched on the county’s failure to get a library referendum passed and the current anti-tax climate, Hanns concluded: “I’ve put a lot of thought into it and thought we should discuss it a little more and see is this something we absolutely believe will pass? Because in the event it’s a necessity, we know what we’re up against with the crime rising, with the overcrowding in the jail, I’m seeing personally people within the county that I’ve never experienced seeing before, people that may be not necessarily in gangs, but a little bit more intimidating looking than your normal neighborhood people might be, and I’m not so certain that this will pass, and in the event that it doesn’t pass, then we really have a quandary.”

Commissioners Holland and Nate McLaughlin had already opposed the current tax plan (McLaughlin because he doesn’t want the sales tax levy to be on the books for 15 years). So after Hanns’s declaration, the proposal was essentially dead.

Peterson asked the administrator what the numbers were. There was no clear answer.

Coffey did his best to present more solid figures, saying the current estimate of approximately $20 million for a jail was the result of lowering the costs identified in a Carter Global Associates study done during the peak of the housing market. “My analyses could be as much as 20 percent off either way without a professional design plan in front of me,” Coffey said. The commission has at least agreed to underwrite the cost of a design study. But lack of clarity in the county’s plan is one of the reasons the cities (with Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts leading the charge) have been merciless in criticizing it.

Holland repeated her skepticism about the plans. She said it would take time to get the public to understand what the commission is doing, that when they walk in to vote on that ballot they already should know what’s on it. She advocated for a phased approach. Commissioner Revels, the jail expansion’s biggest champion, contended that the people know where the money is going even as she conceded that the public doesn’t understand the overcrowding issue.

“The memory of the jail and all the discussions we’ve had about it are really important to revisit right at this moment particularly in light of the most recent crime sweep that was done in North Florida,” Revels said, referring to last week’s sweep of small-time prescription drug users and dealers in Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties. “And they pulled in how many perpetrators of selling pills and drugs and that type of thing. What people don’t realize, they’re going to cheer our law enforcement, from out of the area, they’re going to cheer that action, and they don’t realize what had to happen the next day. Do you know what had to happen the next day? We had to have all the judges and all the jail people, and all the sheriff’s department and the clerk’s office, and everybody had to sit down and talk about—now who are you going to let go. You arrest all these people, now who are you going to let go? And so the very next day you’re putting all these drug dealers in, but you’ve got to let somebody out. There were no mattresses left at the jail the next day. No mattresses, not beds, just mattresses. So we do not have a choice that we cannot fund this jail. I think we’ve looked at all the alternatives in our previous workshops.”

In reality, most of the prescription-drug pushers pulled in by the sweep made the decision for authorities easier simply by bonding out.

“At the end of day, you can afford what you can afford and that’s it, just like anyone else,” said Holland. “In other communities, they’re building facilities that have the ability to add on. We’re still getting a lot of questions about why we built our courthouse so big. There’s a disconnect about where we are today. We need to come at this with our municipalities on board—it makes more collective sense than doing it on our own.”

Revels balked. “We don’t have time,” she said, pointing out that the county went to the municipalities before.

So they will again. The commissioners ended up officially tabling the motion in the hopes of finding another means of generating revenue at a future workshop while re-negotiating with the cities.

The county will re-assess the sales tax plan at a meeting on July 31.

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21 Responses for “County Concedes What Palm Coast Has Been Saying for Months: Sales Tax Plan a No-Go”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    Use tents like Arpaio does in rich Maricopa County, Arizona. Have these judges move these trials faster in court, no matter what those defending attorney’s want. Partition into holding cells the lavish oversized offices of the palatial Justice Center and house the non violent delinquents waiting for their court day, there. The way things stand now, looks like these criminals have more rights than all of us hard working law abiding citizens, footing the bill. Give our elected ones and their administrators a wake call of the pathetic real economic distress that most are enduring in this county, right now!
    No more lavish Taj Mahals benefitting the developers and the approving officials, while hitting our pockets!

    • Geezer says:

      Every person who is accused of and indicted of a crime deserves a speedy trial.
      That doesn’t mean that you rush people through the system.

      I don’t like criminals, especially the violent variety, but I am not a fan of prison tents,
      nor the blatant racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
      We used to have prisons and sheriffs like that in the old south, however.
      I don’t miss those days. That practice was stopped because it was barbaric.

      We have the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. We’re NUMBER ONE!
      730 persons per 100.000. (China is 121 on the list)
      Since our society produces so many criminals – we may as well build better prisons.

      Blame Wall Street and the banks for this “pathetic real economic distress.”
      One of the side effects is increased crime and more convicts.

      How about we build some federal prison tents for all the Wall Street big shots that bet on the housing bubble? They too can wear pink underwear and work in a chain gang. That would be ok by me.

      Things are becoming barbaric enough in the USA without retrograde penal colonies.

      Have a nice day.

    • Gov employee says:

      There’s a sure cure for taxes you don’t like: VOTE OUT the people who insist there’s no other solutions.

  2. question says:

    “wanting to renew a half-cent sales tax …county’s failure to get a library referendum passed and the current ANTI – TAX climate.”

    Don’t need no stinkin’ Library…don’t need no stinkin’ jail space. Ahhh, the the wit & wisdom of Tea Party.

    Putting the U.S. Congress in total lock down since 2010 not enough? Need to drag down previously functioning nice little towns like Palm Coast.

    Enjoying ‘reaping what you have sewn” in Congress: 17% approval rating? Enjoying what you are doing to Palm Coast?

  3. question says:

    Uh oh…jump away from your computer…the Sheriff Joe whistle has just blown!

    One sick, sorry example of ‘Law Enforcement’ !

    A neo-con HERO for the ages. Right up there with Ted Nugent. A little clue: just type Sheriff Arpaio into google. Look at just a few…

  4. Jim J says:

    I agree Use tents like Arpaio does in rich Maricopa County, Arizona.

    Why should , and I why should City of Palm Coast support this effort? The Councy is very very good at wasting money. There is no trust in that buch.

    • carol says:

      There is an empty hospital in Bunnell, why not look into buying it and convert it into jail cells.

    • carol says:

      Before Palm Coast was built we didn’t have half of the crime in the county that we do now. Only a small building in Bunnell did fine. “That’s why the City of Palm Coast should support it.

  5. Waste says:

    Ok, let us say we approve a jail and its costs. Why would we than allow bond on these folks that can be paid in 10 minutes? The issue is the justice system in the county is not harsh enough to put an end to this. If you slap someone on the wrist they get angry and go out and do worse.
    If you tie them done for years, they cannot do a damn thing.
    The country, states, cities, counties need to understand the process and incarcerate the individuals not let them go on measily bond.

    • Nancy N. says:

      The state of Florida already incarcerates a higher percentage of its citizens than any other state in the country. Other states are lowering their sentencing, while we are raising them. Yet our crime rate is no better than anyone else’s – so how is that working, anyway?

  6. Waste says:

    Wait QUESTION: so everyone id doing something to Palm Coast? This place has had issues since I arrived in 2005. The issue is that events are kept VERY quiet. Now that more and more are happening people are seeing the true colors of the county and city. The issue is that real estate is so cheap. Daytona Beach is pounding the gangs in their area. So what do they do, find cheaper housing and move 30 minutes north. If you have bunnel, holly hill and DB, sooner or later the idiots in those areas see the benefit of owning a home for the same amount as rent and move in. The housing market has made this influx possible and worse as it goes along.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    @ question. Maybe I should made clear that the tent jails are about the only thing I like done by Arpaio, for everything else he is a nut case and a rabid bigot. That is what happens when too long in office and with too much power, for an elected one.

  8. Gia says:

    We understand the overcrowding issue & it’s not the public problem. That vermin do not need to be in jail if they would respect the law with everything else. This is not Holiday Inn. That crap got everything free in jail. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH NO MORE. Pack them like sardines

  9. Clint says:

    Unbelievable…Most of these comments reject the way sheriff Joe can handle criminals. Calling him a bigot. Maybe they should look REAL close at their commander-in-chief and see what a real true bigot looks like. America will get what its asking for in a very short time. Palm Coast will be a “slum” in three more years. Get out now !

  10. Waste says:

    @palmcoaster…more handouts do not solve a problem of this nature. Look at the US and the handouts our government has done.
    You want to solv these issues? Have the justice system enforce and demand accountability for your actions, period.
    The criminals are given too much authority without reprocussions.
    I am all for helping the SO but until the above is resolved, the issue will be the horse or the cart / chicken or the egg. Which comes first? Which is more important?

  11. palmcoaster says:

    I want to clarify that I am the “palmcoaster” in the two first post here. Not the palmcoaster in the third post for funding a new jail. That is another palmcoaster , totally opposed to what we can afford.

  12. Bob Hamby says:

    Did our long time elected officials suddenly discover just before the election that we have a problem with jail over-crowding jail. Maybe we have discovered the source of our problem and have a chance beginning August 14 to vote in new leadership on the Flagler BOCC.. Past service as County Commissioner or member of PC Council would seem to be a strong indication of candidates inability to solve these type of problems, Maybe its time for fresh ideas from concerned citizens willing to serve the public. Vote August 14.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    Is a go or not with Peterson on the lead for it?

    BOCC needs change.

  14. JD Rourke says:

    I wonder if they have researched sharing facilities. Does not Palm Coast also have a jail. How about Flagler Beach?

    Could we not sometimes borrow space from other jurisdictions, even if there is a nightly/weekly/monthly charge? A little cooperation among jurisdictions may go a long way toward reconciling this problem.

    It would be nice to see others post ideas rather than criticism on this site.

    just saying…

    • Nancy N. says:

      It would be nice to see some KNOWLEDGE on this site.

      No, Palm Coast and Flagler Beach do not have jails! Palm Coast doesn’t even have a police force – why would it have a jail? There is one jail in this county – the Flagler county facility that is overcrowded and in need of expansion.

  15. gerald says:

    the sheriffs office administrators are moving from their present location located next to the jail to the old we can use the old space and expand the as far as the increase in sales tax i dont like it but when we vote yes

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