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On Again: Sheriff Agrees to Terms for Moving to Old Courthouse; $6 Million, Anyone?

| July 19, 2010

A more favorable judgment day. (© FlaglerLive)

Last month it looked as if plans for the Flagler County Sheriff and the Bunnell city administration to move into the old courthouse had collapsed. A commissioner who’d worked on the plan felt “railroaded.” Bunnell, whose administration is housed in a suite of offices in the county’s administration building, had no money that could make a difference in the deal. And Sheriff Don Fleming, who detests controversy, “postponed” his intentions, even though his troops are cramped and away from all city centers in their offices near the county jail.

All that now appears to be as old as the historic courthouse itself, which was built in 1926. Fleming is interested again. Bunnell may even have money. The county certainly does. Tonight, the county commission is set to approve spending $143,000 in the first step toward making the courthouse annex the sheriff’s new office.

In a letter to County Commission Chairman George Hanns, Fleming said his office “would be willing to solely occupy all of the floors in the annex portion of the Bunnell historic courthouse facility, provided the county would be able to securely operate the front half of the building and upgrade the parking.” Additionally,” Fleming wrote on June 21, “I would ask that the historic front half of the building have its own entrance and elevator, thereby being physically separated from the annex facility. If construction is accomplished in this manner, I would have no concerns as to who occupies the space in the historic courthouse, as long as it is not another law enforcement agency.”

Fleming was worried that the courthouse might also become home to the Bunnell Police Department, which currently occupies a trailer across from the old Bunnell City Hall. Bunnell is now considering moving the police department to Carver Gym on the south end of town. Other potential occupants of the old courthouse are the Bunnell city administration, the public branch library in Bunnell, and the Flagler County Historical Society, all of whom have been in discussion with the county over how to use the old courthouse again.

The two obstacles were money and logistics. Because of security matters, the sheriff doesn’t want his offices mingling in any way with those of other agencies. Investigators, detectives, deputies, suspects and other individuals whose privacy may be at a premium are in and out of the sheriff’s facility. There were some questions over how the sheriff’s operations could be isolated from the rest. Those questions appear to have been resolved as the sheriff alone would occupy the three-story annex, which was built in 1982.

Money remains an obstacle. The county is not rolling in it. The county calculates that the complete renovation of the courthouse will cost $6.5 million. The county commission included $460,000 in the current year’s budget for courthouse renovation. That took care of roof repairs and replacement of the air and heat units in the annex, engineering costs, termite inspections and treatment ($28,000 for those two items), and other costs adding up to $378,000.

There is still $82,000 from the original appropriation of $460,000 that hasn’t been spent. But the new round of spending requires $205,000. That’s for architectural design work and take care of the building’s historic designation (a three-step, $17,000 process that would develop a local ordinance and register the building with the state and the national registry of historical places).

Bunnell may also have $2 million to spend on the courthouse, though that is far from the certain. The $2 million was a 2005 earmark by a developer to build Commerce Parkway in Bunnell. That, according to County Administrator Craig Coffey, is no longer in the works. Bunnell could decide to use the money as an “enhancement project for the courthouse as an historic structure on a state highway,” Coffey says, if Bunnell pursues the money as such.

It’s a long shot. But the county, Bunnell and the sheriff are much closer to a re-occupation of the old courthouse today than they were just last month.

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7 Responses for “On Again: Sheriff Agrees to Terms for Moving to Old Courthouse; $6 Million, Anyone?”

  1. Jerry M says:

    Still think the Sheriff’s office should consider the old hospital.

  2. Jason L says:

    The only thing that should ever occupy that decrepit unsafe building is a wrecking ball as it knocks it to the ground. If the courthouse was in such disrepair that we needed to build the new Potato palaces how is it suddenly repairable.

  3. H. Peter Stolz says:

    Don’t you just love how the sheriff dictates to everyone – the city of Bunnell, the county commission, the city of Palm Coast. What would happen if the county commission really did its job and cut about 30% of fat out of the sheriff’s budget of over $18 million? What would happen if Palm Coast leaders grew a backbone and told the sheriff $0 contribution (instead of $3 million) this year from the city towards the sheriff’s budget. Do you think the sheriff would still be dictating – other than maybe his resignation?

  4. Despicable Me says:

    What’s disgraceful is that the sheriff would deny the bunnell police department the opportunity to occupy a spot in that building. They are treated like second class citizens, meanwhile, they are more courageous than 90% of the deputies with the conditions they work in. Bunnell is dangerous and they are out there every single night risking their lives and the sheriff refuses to affiliate with them. It’s terrible.

  5. starfyre says:

    the only place most of the bunnell police need to occupy is the jail–and from the other side of the bars

    crooked bunch of…

  6. itsMe says:

    Mr. Stolz please…….. You complain of what you do not know.

    Despicable Me …perhaps you do not realize that the building belongs to the county and not the city of Bunnell. . To deny them room in the old courthouse is actually a favor in the long run as I see it. In order to be a fully functional agency BPD needs its own facility.

    starfyre, I do not agree with your comment there are some hard working officers in Bunnell.

    Does anyone actually have anything worthwhile to say??

  7. H Peter Stolz says:

    I didn’t say anything about the ownership of the building, if you’ll read my letter again and let it sink in. I complained about the sheriff pushing his weight around with everyone to get his way; I complained (in a separate letter) about a county council who nitpicked the sheriff’s tiniest budget items and left his $18 million staffing budget alone; and I suggest that without the $3 million from Palm Coast, the sheriff might not less inclined to dictate to everyone. Just opinions – so I do know what I am talking about. Now about your reading skills…………

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