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Ex-Sheriff Jim Manfre on Troubled Operations Center: How We Got Here

| June 5, 2018

Jim Manfre, right, after being recognized for his service by newly-elected Sheriff Rick Staly in January 2017. (© FlaglerLive)

Jim Manfre, right, after being recognized for his service by newly-elected Sheriff Rick Staly in January 2017. (© FlaglerLive)

By Jim Manfre

Sheriff’s Office employees have documented serious health problems after being placed in a building that had sat and rotted for over a decade, filled with contaminants. Now that the issues that have plagued the purchase of the old Flagler Memorial Hospital are before the public again, it is time to examine how we arrived at this place.

The former Sheriff’s Operation Center that was built in 1992 on Justice Lane in Bunnell was overcrowded when I became sheriff in 2001. It required using trailers and leased space to accommodate the staff needed to service a population that grew by over 50 percent in four years. The Flagler County Commission and county administrator missed an opportunity to deal with these issues in 2002 when they chose to build a new courthouse, an Emergency Operation Center (EOC) and a Government Services Building that housed the school district and elected officials, without also building a new Sheriff’s Operation Center.

Although a new operation center was designed then as an additional wing of the courthouse complex, it was not implemented. Instead a 25,300 square foot EOC was built for $5.5 million.

In 2011, the County Commission finally decided to construct a new Sheriff’s Operation Center and a new inmate facility. When I became sheriff in 2013, the county’s plan was to place the Sheriff’s Operation Center in the old courthouse annex and build out twenty-six thousand square feet. The county decided to give the building to the City of Bunnell instead of utilizing it for the Sheriff’s Office. This began a process to select an alternate site. The old Bunnell Police Department building owned by the county and across the street from the courthouse and Government Services Building was proposed as a location to build a new Sheriff’s Operation Center.

I fully supported this proposal as a low-cost, common-sense solution. Inexplicably, the County Commission voted this location down by a 3-2 vote. Several Commissioners suggested that the EOC be considered as a possible choice as the Sheriff’s Office Communications Center was already located in the building. I endorsed this concept as another low-cost alternative. The idea was rejected by County Administrator Craig Coffey.

The next conversation involved the purchase of the old hospital. I was adamant from the outset that this was a bad choice as the county had rejected this property 10 years before because of its poor condition and the requirement to spend money on acquiring the property and a building that needed to be demolished. Over my objection, the county purchased the property and although staff, multiple commissioners and I recommended that all the buildings be demolished and a new building constructed, county administrator insisted that the buildings remain and be renovated.

After occupying the newly renovated Sheriff’s Operations building for several months, a distinctly foul odor began to emanate from the east side of the building closest to the old patient wings of the hospital that remained standing. This was reported to the county. An inspection of the patient wings revealed that it was full of mold, rotting debris and was being occupied by vagrants.

In early 2016, I made a request to the county administrator to have the old patient wing buildings demolished due to the potential dangerous conditions and fire hazard it presented. My repeated requests were ignored. Eventually, under Sheriff Staly’s administration, the sheriff requested that the patient wings be demolished. The county administrator directed county staff to take down the building without first obtaining a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which would have ensured the proper procedures were used to demolish, remove and dispose of the potential hazardous material. It was not long after this occurred that the serious health problems of the employees began to appear.

So where do we go from here? It is clear that the present Sheriff’s Operation Center needs to be abandoned immediately until such time that the county can properly determine it is safe for occupancy. The men and women who work in this building everyday deserve the county’s immediate attention.

Jim Manfre was Flagler County Sheriff in 2001-04 and 2013-16.

Cost Comparisons: The Seven Options As Presented By The County in 2013

Courthouse AnnexOld JailOld HospitalOld Hospital if Demolished and RebuiltGSB South of the EOC BuildingGSB South of Circular RoadGSB East Courthouse Wing
Property Purchase Cost (*)NoneNone$1,230,000$1,230,000NoneNoneNone
Building Construction$4,000,0004,555,0003,535,0004,555,0004,555,0004,555,0005,980,000
Site Work$400,000$500,000$300,000$300,000$500,000$500,000$100,000
Architect, Permits etc.$250,000$400,000$400,000$400,000$400,000$400,000$400,000
Demolition CostsNone$350,000None$700,000$25,000NoneNone
Brick Facade Work$100,000NoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Structural Upgrades (**)$300,000None$450,000NoneNoneNoneNone
Transportation Impact Fees (***)None$15,000NoneNone$25,000$25,000$25,000
Water and Sewer Impact FeesNone$10,000NoneNone$25,000$25,000$25,000
Wetland and Floodplain MitigationNone$50,000NoneNone$100,000$300,000None
(*) The county administration in its calculations had put old hospital purchase costs in the non-demolition column at $750,000, rather than $1.23 million, by "prorating" the purchase cost according to the percentage of the space the sheriff would use (35,000 square feet out of 56,800 square feet). But that's a misleading calculation, as the county would have to buy the building for its agreed-upon price regardless of the space the sheriff uses. By going with the smaller figure, the administration was able to make the purchase of the old hospital look like the second-lowest choice. In fact, it's the third-most expensive option.
(**)Bringing structures to 141 mph windload.
(***) Scheduled to be back in effect in Oct. 2014.
Source: Flagler County Administration.

18 Responses for “Ex-Sheriff Jim Manfre on Troubled Operations Center: How We Got Here”

  1. Lou says:

    OK, lets see.
    There was a sick building used as a hospital.
    Hospital owners sold it cheap.
    Someone purchased a sick building cheap.
    Someone sold the sick building to the county and made profit.
    Now the taxpayers have to make the sick building healthy at taxpayer’s expense.
    Did I miss something?

  2. woodchuck says:

    Coffey should be investigated.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Another blunder by coffee

  4. Long Flagler says:

    Hopefully, if it is mold then it doesn’t contaminate food in kitchens, water sources for showers, infiltrate the air system. Hopefully, it does not get in the air system because there is a possibility it could contaminate possible evidence that is being analyzed. County please fix this!

  5. palmcoaster says:

    Boot Coffey, Sherman, Murphy and Dunn and vote down any incumbent county commissioners.
    Coffey should be booted for wasting intentionally our hard earned taxes and also for witch hunting anyone that
    opposes him like honest former SOE Kimberle Weeks.

  6. Robert Lewis says:

    Funny, Jim Manfre didn’t show all that concern when his buddy Nate McLaughin had Governor Scott come here for a special ribbon cutting. This building was a bad decision from the start. Once again Manfre’s mess hurts the deputies.

  7. Percy's mother says:

    NATE McLaughlin apparently voted ‘yes’ on this fiasco. (someone correct me if I’m wrong . . . if I’m wrong, I will stand corrected)

    Am I correct when I write that Barbara Revels also played a role in this fiasco? Isn’t there a construction company and real estate somewhere in her background?

    Coffey played a role.

    Therefore, NATE McLaughlin, Barbara Reveals and Mr. Coffey are directly and indirectly responsible for this fiasco (in my opinion) . . . Perhaps 1 or all 3 had something to gain from the transaction. I’m NOT voting for NATE.

  8. Ready says:

    Mr. Coffey your day of reckoning for your indiscretions and back door deals and blatant disregard for the publics interest will soon arrive. Prepare for the avalanche that has been building to come down on you and those you conspire with!!

  9. PC Citizen says:

    I believe I’m switching to ” TEA ” instead of ” Coffey “

  10. I Know says:

    @ Robert Lewis, Bingo.
    Jim, if you had such concerns why weren’t you adamantly and publicly making your concerns known then? Waiting to see how the county responds to you as it is my highest of hopes that somehow you’ve opened a can of worms on yourself.

  11. Vagrants? says:

    Vagrants were living there? did anyone test the building for meth cooking residue? I’m sure, for as long as it stood empty, that is a real risk, outside of the mold concerns.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Nate voted YES to purchase this liability.

  13. Nothing new says:

    Ok great story. But why don’t you bring back the old articles you initially wrote when this was in the works. No one listened to the knowledgeable construction officials. This was a Coffey – Rebels show.

  14. capt says:

    This name just keeps on coming up with everything thats wrong in Flagler County; County Administrator Craig Coffey.

    Flagler County Commissioners, do your voters and taxpayers a service, how about a change.

  15. Just The Truth says:

    The County Administrators DID NOT OBTAIN THE PROPER PERMIT FROM FLORIDA ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, this is obvious their fault; now these employee’s are suffering for their lack of doing things incorrectly.
    Someone should be losing their job over this stupid mistake. And taxpapers do not want to have to foot the bill because of the County Anministrators errors.
    I think it is time we clean house in the county administration office.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Now we only have to worry about the microorganisms being transferred from the Sheriff’s Operation Center in papers, supplies and belongings tot the old Administration building and the Kim C Hammond Justice Center. No telling how much the employees and others who have entered this sick building have taken to their cars and homes.

    Hey Jim, why didn’t you demand that more testing be done on the areas where the odors were coming from being you called for them to be torn down so you would know what you and your staff and others had been breathing? It is obvious that the intention was to tear down the wings because so very little testing was done in this area….some wings not having any testing done on them at all!

  17. Marge says:

    I did a lot of research on the old Flagler Hospital. Built over 100 years ago it is moldy and decrepit. Why another environmental study was ordered after a prior one on that building found mold, is beyond me. It seems as if Flagler County and it’s administrators aren’t very concerned about the health and safety of it’s county law enforcement staff. Why is Mr. Coffey so worried about being fired?

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