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County’s Generosity To Bunnell Runs Out as Commission Imposes Rent and Exit Deadline

| May 19, 2014

Bunnell vacated its own city hall five years ago on the assunmption hat it would return there after temporarily using county office space. It never did. The county's patience has run out. (© FlaglerLive)

Bunnell vacated its own city hall five years ago on the assumption that it would return there after temporarily using county office space. It never did. The county’s patience has run out. (© FlaglerLive)

After providing space to the Bunnell administration, rent-free for almost five years, The Flagler County Commission’s patience with Bunnell city government has all but run out. On Monday, the commission informed Bunnell that it must move out of the Government Services Building by August 1, or start paying $2,400 a month rent, retroactive to June 1. The county would also charge Bunnell $100 for every government meeting the city holds in the GSB’s chambers.

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The Government Services Building, jointly owned and run by the county and the school board, doesn’t lack for space. That’s why the county originally extended its rent-free generosity to the city. That happened when the city’s old city hall could no longer be occupied after severe rains, and the city did not just then have money to pay for repairs. The county agreed to take in most of the city’s offices, rent free, on the assumption that the arrangement would be very temporary. That is, a matter of months.

The first none-month agreement was extended to two years, then extended again, even after Bunnell received $99,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Administration to fix its city hall’s roof and move back there. Instead, the city conducted its repairs but moved its police department into the old building, and assumed that it could extend its stay with the county.

Further delays set in as the county and Bunnell discussed the possibility of using the old courthouse as a Bunnell city hall. The county actually conveyed the courthouse to Bunnell, only to see Bunnell vote last month to return the courthouse to the county, because it was in too poor a shape.  (The county commission was discussing the future of the courthouse later in its workshop this afternoon.)

Aside from charging rent and a fee for government meetings, County Administrator Craig Coffey proposed moving Bunnell offices from parts of the GSB to other parts, enabling the county’s Economic Opportunity Department to move into the spaces currently used by Bunnell, on the third floor of the GSB. Coffey would also expect Bunnell to entirely vacate the space in seven and a half months—by the end of December.

Commissioners appeared ready to immediately accept those recommendations, with one commissioner’s caveat.

“I would ask that the board delay any new fees 60 days because I know they’re actively looking,” Commissioner Nate McLaughlin said. Bunnell has been looking at such places as the Atlantis shopping center on U.S. 1 and other places, though some of those places are no longer available . “I’d appreciate another 60 days of generosity.”

“Why?” Commissoner Barbara Revels asked.


“Because they’re actively looking,” McLaughlin said. He expects that by August 1, Bunnell will have found alternative spaces.

The additional generosity did not sit well with the administrator and other commissioners. “It has gone out for a while,” Coffey said. “I’ll go along with whatever you decide.”

To Commission Chairman George Hanns, the commission chairman, the situation reminds him of a movie where a brother in law moves in and never moves out.

 

“They haven’t met a single deadline in five years. I’m sorry,” Revels said.

Bunnell City Manager Larry Williams sat in the audience as the commission discussed the matter at the Emergency Operations Center Monday afternoon. McLaughlin said Williams could speak on the matter directly. Other commissioners declined to hear him.

In the end, commissioners agreed to extend two months’ generosity to Bunnell, but only on the assumption that the city will, in fact, find new digs by August 1. If the city does not, then it will be charged rent and meeting fees, retroactive to June 1. And it will be expected to vacate the Government Services Building by Dec. 31, regardless.

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7 Responses for “County’s Generosity To Bunnell Runs Out as Commission Imposes Rent and Exit Deadline”

  1. THE VOICE OF REASON says:

    I wonder if the city of Bunnell has ever heard the phrase “Welfare Cadillac?”

  2. Steve Wolfe says:

    I’m surprised the county has not charged rent from the very start, but hey, we’re talking about government here. Not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Not looking out for the people that paid for the GSB. How easily the Commissioners have forgotten that it isn’t their building, either.

    Even more puzzling is why the Commissioners aren’t talking about expanding the GSB to accommodate Bunnell or others who might pay rent, and develop a revenue stream outside of property taxes. Oh yeah…..we’re still talking about government. Not the sharpest knives in the drawer. I think we should solicit everyone’s best experience with government to share here. Bet we get some doozies. Try to limit it to one each so the internet doesn’t run out of space.

    • ooops says:

      Well, if they charge the city, then it’s going to be paid by city of bunnell property tax. It doesn’t take a sharp knife to know the government prints money, takes money but never actually makes money.

      • Steve Wolfe says:

        Primaries and elections are coming. Time to find the sharp knives. Key issues: taxes, accounting of all county assets and processes, and government accountability to us. I can’t stop shaking my head till someone steps up with some real-world perspective and management experience. The BOCC can justify $1.5 million for a single fire station, but somehow the sheriff’s department only rated a moldy, uninhabitable hospital comprised of 3 buildings that all should be raised. For $1.5 million we could have a state-of-the-art law enforcement HQ. Construction should be nearly complete by now. Our first responders deserve the best. Maybe important county business deals should all be struck on shore.

  3. A.S.F. says:

    I suppose all that prayer takes up a lot of time they might use to actually do government work.

  4. JC says:

    Bless their hearts!

  5. Because says:

    For decades, the only place the County Commission had to hold meetings was in Bunnell city offices. They would never have dreamed of charging for using the space.

    But then again, Flagler County used to be a nice place to live.

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