The Flagler County Commission this morning approved a $240,000 building project for the Sheriff’s Office that it opposed just six weeks ago.
The project will result in a pair of buildings on a nearly 9-acre tract the county acquired in 2017 Justice Lane, opposite the existing law enforcement and firefighter training tower and close to the old sheriff’s administration building and the existing jail. It will also build a gun range.
One building will be 500 square feet, the other 3,500 square feet. Made of metal, both are needed because the sheriff was forced to evacuate the agency’s operations center in Bunnell after three dozen employees complained of sick-building syndrome like illnesses last year. The building was evacuated in June. There are no plans for re-entry or for a new building at the moment.
Heidi Petito, the county’s facilities director, told county commissioners that the spaces on Justice Lane are needed for evidence storage and crime scene processing, as the existing makeshift storage facility at the sheriff’s old administrative building is so short on space that the smell of marijuana is permeating the building. The sheriff’s Crime Scene Investigations unit will be using the space.
In mid-June, commissioners were presented with three options ranging from $219,000 to $267,000. Commissioner Dave Sullivan rejected them all and convinced his colleagues to join him. He said at the time that he didn’t want to approve piecemeal, temporary solutions to the sheriff’s space needs. He doesn’t want to lift the pressure on finding a permanent solution to the operations center fiasco. He was also displeased with the timing of the proposal in february: it was the first time he and his colleagues had been presented with the project, with no preparation from the administration.
This time, Petito presented just one option, describing the buildings as permanent structures the county will own and will use differently once a resolution of the sheriff’s operations center is reached. The county, she said, bought the property for training purposes, both for firefighters and law enforcement, as an extension of the training grounds across the street. The larger building in the future is to be used as classroom space within that context. But since the sheriff has such a need for storage space, the classroom building is being expedited.
“The last time it was brought forward we didn’t have much advance warning on this,” Sullivan said, saying he wanted “a plan put together to get the bigger problem solved.” Now, he said, he understood the purpose of the two buildings, “and I think we’re making progress toward a bigger plan.” Interim Manager Jerry Cameron is to propose options to that end, possibly including proposals to build a new operations center in Palm Coast, in a few weeks.
“This would have been built to some degree even if we hadn’t had the problems at the sheriff’s operations center,” Sullivan said.
Commissioner Greg Hansen wanted to make sure that the project would still leave room for a gun range. Petito said it would. She said the project would be done in three and a half months at the most.
Commissioners approved the initiative 4-0. (Commissioner Joe Mullins was absent.) Cameron during the proceedings sat up front, instead of at his usual spot to the side. He sat next to Sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge, with either of them apparently ready to take to the mic if commissioners were to show any resistance to the plan. That proved unnecessary.