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Flagler Commission Will Build New, $12-15 Million Sheriff’s Operations Center by Palm Coast Library, Condemning ‘Mold Ops’

| April 15, 2019

Say goodbye to the old Operations Center. (© FlaglerLive)

Say goodbye to the old Operations Center. (© FlaglerLive)

In a major development with numerous economic, financial and other consequences, not all of them mapped out, the Flagler County Commission this evening voted unanimously to build a new Flagler County Sheriff’s Operations Center–in Palm Coast, next to the county library on Palm Coast Parkway. The vote was also an implicit abandonment of the old operations center in Bunnell, which Sheriff Rick Staly and his staff have been referring to as “Mold Ops.”

The new building will likely be around 40,000 square feet and cost $12 to $15 million, drawn for a mixture of a small portion of existing dollars and a larger portion of borrowed funds. It will also pledge revenue from the county’s sales surtax for many years to come, essentially diverting all those dollars to the new building and preventing investments in other capital projects.

The new building complex would also include a branch office of the Tax Collector, but not one attached to the Operations Center. And a district sheriff’s office would be built in Bunnell. Finances for either of those additions are vague. Those financial options include re-selling the Sears building the county just bought for over $1 million, and re-selling the old bank building it bought last year, off of Old Kings Road, when it was projecting it as a sheriff’s substation.

Commission Chairman Don O’Brien said he did not see “ever a time” the sheriff re-occupying the old operations center. “We’re at that point where we have to realize that and plan for the future and get it done.” But he said the decision today does not address budgeting, nor does it address a specific location at the 17-acre library site. But it gives the administrator authority to start the design and permitting process.

“This will impact the overall county budget,” County Commissioner Dave Sullivan warned. “It’s going to hurt the rest of the budget for the next few years,” starting with the long delay of a new branch library in Bunnell, near the Government Services Building. He said the new building’s cost will also impact finances of the sheriff’s office and the rest of county government.

Staly told commissioners he favored three locations equally, each with its own pros and cons–near the library, in Town Center and near the Emergency Operations Center, behind the Government Services Building. But he did lean toward the library option distinctly more than other options as he spoke to commissioners this evening–if not personally, at least politically: he was also urging the commissioners to make a decision tonight, and he could sense what had become clear in the last few weeks: that commissioners as a whole favored the library location anyway.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said before the vote, sensing a resolution. He’d noted moments earlier that he and his staff, some 67 employees, had evacuated the Operations Center in Bunnell nearly a year ago, with no resolution since–and much litigation still ahead.

For Bunnell, the loss of the Operations Center is a major blow, economically and pridefully, if not politically, though the city’s political fears–that this would be a step toward Palm Coast becoming the county seat–are almost entirely baseless: Palm Coast has no interest in becoming a county seat and has never discussed it, and the proposition startles Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland when she hears it. Still, the disappearance of the Operations Center means the loss of a substantial economic presence, as well as added security.

Interim County Administrator Jerry Cameron said the library option allows the county to build on county-owned land and return currently county-owned properties back to the tax rolls, assuming the properties can be sold.

Cameron said the sheriff would maintain a “district office” in Bunnell, and referred to the Palm Coast option as a district office as well, thus preserving the notion–also not well defined this evening–that the sheriff would maintain his legally required presence in Bunnell. Cameron didn’t say where the sheriff would maintain that presence: presumably it could be in the old administration building, next to the jail, since it’s inconceivable that the sheriff would maintain–or would want to maintain–an administrative office in the courthouse a day longer than he has to: relations with the clerk of court have not been at their friendliest.

For Tom Bexley, the clerk of court, the direction the commission was getting ready to take left him sternly apprehensive. “Do you not know, or do you not care, and what I’m asking about is the impact to my office,” Bexley asked the commissioners. He was very concerned about a plan to consolidate the sheriff’s temporary operations on the first floor of the county courthouse. The sheriff is currently more spread out in the courthouse, among other locations his staff has been using since evacuating the Operations Center. “This is wrought with problems,” he said. “You’re going to do harm to my office and the constituents that I represent.”

But commissioners reassured him that they would not go the route of that one-floor consolidation, and instead stick with the current arrangement, which the sheriff finds uncomfortable. But it was the sort of compromise that left neither side too thrilled, while both sides know that it’s a time-limited compromise: the new operations center is expected to be designed and built over the next two years. By then, both the sheriff and the clerk will be back in office space on their terms.

What becomes of the old operations center in Bunnell (now unceremoniously downgraded to lower-case letters) is not clear, and commissioners at the moment seemed not to care very much. But they own an asset that amounts to a toxic zone they will not easily sell nor can possibly reuse in any meaningful way.

The presentation of various options and the accompanying analysis to commissioners was provided by Mike Esposito, who’s in charge of special projects in the county administration. But the options and the way they were prepared combined separate goals: three of the options had to do with a short-run solution. Only one had to do with a permanent solution. Both Sullivan and O’Brien raised issues with the approach.

Newly minted Bunnell City Commissioner Jan Reeger said she spoke as a Bunnell citizen, not a commissioner, when she addressed commissioners to say that logically she understood locating a “substantial office” in Palm Coast. But she said she would prefer to know when a Bunnell district office would be built, what she called “some timing, some clarifications, for all the citizens.” But if that was the most objection the commissioners were to hear from an official voice in Bunnell, even one speaking for herself as a citizen, they were not about to fret. Surprisingly, no other Bunnell officials spoke.

The most forceful public comment commissioners heard, aside from Bexley’s, was from Jim Ulsamer, the chairman of the library Board of Trustees who’s never at a loss for mordant words when the library is at stake: he’d heard hints that land set aside for a new branch library near the GSB could be carved out a bit for a sheriff’s district office. “Sheriff carries a gun but over my dead body they’re going to take that land,” Ulsamer said, opposing any plan to turn over the whole acreage to a sheriff’s building, he is not opposed to a sheriff’s substation having a portion of the land, as long as the planned library is left whole.

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43 Responses for “Flagler Commission Will Build New, $12-15 Million Sheriff’s Operations Center by Palm Coast Library, Condemning ‘Mold Ops’”

  1. Common Sense says:

    This looks like a win win for all concerned…the Sheriff Dept gets the spot they wanted the most, and the land set aside for the new branch of the library to cover southern Palm Coast and replace the tiny part time library in Bunnell is safe. Win win.

  2. Michael Van Buren says:

    …. And so, Manfre’s last folly goes down in flames.

  3. Concerned Citizen says:

    So Marshall Earp got a victory and will get a new building. At the cost of the taxpayers of course. And he skirted state law by “maintaining a district office in Bunnell” How clever.

    From the purchase of the Sears building wasting a million dollars to The Bings Landing issue our BOCC is blowing some serious money. And laughing at us all the way. This BOCC no longer represents the constituents of this county.

    They only care about representing special interests and getting bribe money. And taking care of elected officials who can’t get along with others and share ample space already available. Now because of this Flagler County will be in more debt than it already has.

    I don’t know about you all but I’m tired of having a BOCC who is short sighted and self centered. Not to mention down right unethical at times. I’m also still shaking my head at the choice of “Interim Manager” for this County. Cameron has no pulse on Flagler at all. Not to mention a questionable past in St. Johns County.

    We have elections coming up again soon. I sure hope voters remember those who didn’t do their jobs. And failed to keep promises made during elections.

    Let’s get a BOCC in there that will answer to the voters. Not one that keeps serving uninterrupted terms and gets comfortable accepting “campaign contributions” from special interests.

  4. Bill says:

    @ Common Sense.
    This is NOT at all a win for the people of Flagler County that will be in debt ofer all this.

  5. Robert Bianco, M.D. says:

    Would like to know who is going to be held responsible for the whole debaucle and incredible expense incurred to taxpyers involving the intial office in Bunnell? The purchase and refurbishing of that structure was an inside job from the start. Having spent many years in that structure, then vacant and open to the elements for several years, did not take a rocket scientist to figure that this structure would eventially be inhabitable. What a waste!!

  6. Out of Control BOCC says:

    Absurd!!!!! The law is being skirted and Palm Coast should have their own police department and their own facility and what is County should be in the City Limits of Bunnell. It makes no sense to have all other offices in Bunnell and the Sheriff in the City of Palm Coast. The lawmakers need to stop this. I am so disappointed in the BOCC. And to spend this much money on something. Why not use the Sears Building that is already there??? This is all about taking up the land to get rid of the homeless. This is not going to fix anything, they are going to set up camp elsewhere and the county should have cleared the property years ago and they wouldn’t have set up camp there to being with. This BOCC is spending money like it is water and all it is doing is making our taxes go up, up, up. The other buildings should be sold before anything begins and those who purchased the old hospital need to be held accountable and monies need to be recovered from that to pay for the new SOC. This is all not good business sense, for Mullins to talk about what a good business man he is. He is an ass kisser to the Sheriff and trying to be buddy, buddy with any other politician he can to climb to the top. Ericksen is a few cards short of a full deck as is Sullivan. We better start electing some decent people into the BOCC or we will all have such high taxes that we won’t be able to afford to live here. I can see the Sheriff’s budget going up, up, up with this camera whore in position. We need a new Sheriff that cares more about being Sheriff than being on the milk box carton. The amount of money this Sheriff spends showboating and advertising is out of sight! The county has gained ownership of too much real estate in this county. Put the SOC in the old courthouse where there is plenty of room!! If not there, it should be by the EOC–not on separate ends of the county. If the BOCC don’t understand the law, papers need to be filed to make them understand the law and know what is to be in the county seat! Shame on you BOCC.

  7. Ralph says:

    And this how they move the homeless population under the radar…

  8. Again says:

    My damn taxes better not go up….. again!!!!

  9. Dave says:

    Did displacing the homeless living in their “tent city” in the woods by the library weigh in on their decision to build there? Is there a plan for how to handle the displaced homeless? Building there is not gonna make the homeless problem go away it will only force them to relocate their “tent city”. Where might they end up?

    I’m not trying to say the homeless have a right to be there, but it is an issue/problem associated with this plan that is not mentioned in the article.

  10. sonny says:

    What a bunch of crap! Total railroad job a couple of people had shingles ! Funny same issues only worse at Bunnell Elem they even had bats guess what building they are still in?!?!? Guess elementary students are stronger than the cops! Im not surprised!

  11. Moving on says:

    I listed my house for sale today. This county is ruined. You will have an amazing court house, government services building, sheriff’s office, and dozens of government employees making 6 figure salaries. All on the backs of hard working people working at Walmart.

  12. Percy's mother says:

    1. Tom Bexley needs to leave his ego at the door upon entering the public offices. The office space isn’t “HIS”. His constituents don’t seem to be put out by the situation. Having another public tantrum because you aren’t getting your way Tom?

    2. Great decision by the commission. Great location for the new operations center.

    3. Hopefully a forward thinking architect will come along who will create a design which is both functional and somewhat unusual (in other words, not the same old/same old boring and thought-less architectural design such as PC City Hall and the present operations center).

  13. Flatsflyer says:

    So now we own three buildings that the county purchased for the Sheriff, guess that means we’ll have to try something new like trying our hands at construction. Buddy Taylor students await their chance to lead county officials in undertaking this new challenge.

  14. Doug says:

    I’m glad to see the County Commission finally recognized the purchase of the old hospital property was a complete waste of taxpayer money that benefited a few long gone politicians.

  15. Palm Coast Resident says:

    What is the cost analysis to completely fix and repair the standing FCSO building? It would be nice to see the estimates, since there’s been inspections and reports. Is this building really going to become another blemish or can it be repaired? Would it cost more to fix it properly than it would to build several new buildings?

  16. Anonymous says:

    So all the players that were involved in the ownership of the old building , lawyers, realtors , politicians who owned and sold the contaminated building made money and left the taxpayers with a large debt. Wait until we see down the road if the new building will be more than what they are projecting , nothing but incompetence and has led and still is leading this county. I guess the homeless will just move to another wooded parcel to camp out

  17. Agkistrodon says:

    @Dave, Perhaps some of them could start picking up trash around town for their “right” to live where they desire, They seem to be able to bike and walk all over town to their “designated” corners where the stand for hours to get money, and perhaps CLEAN up after yourself. Doesn’t money to throw trash away and bury your excrement. If you want to be treated like an average person, you have to conduct yourself like the average person.

  18. Wow says:

    So they first bought TWO different buildings planning to move there. Now they need to sell those buildings. What poor planning they show, over and over. Almost like it’s not their own money they’re spending.

  19. atilla says:

    People and the press keep calling them homeless which is probably politicly correct but back in the day they were bums and hobos. What is our marine, Jack Howell who was single handedly going to rid these trespassers. COME ON JACK!! WHERE ARE YOU???????

  20. oldtimer says:

    So what is the plan for the next two years while this is all being built? Just muddle on in three different locations and stack all the crime evidence four stories high?

  21. capt says:

    @Bill, they can move onto you’re property.. Nothing ever pleases the public regardless of the decisions made by politicians.

    @Dave says; The lazy, drug using homeless will do what homeless always do, they will do opposite of any county or city plan so they can carry on with their worthless lives. . Maybe the homeless that really need assistance and are willing to take it will benefit one day and the county and city will see to it they get assistance. Remember this problem is not just in little old Palm Coast, its in almost every city in this country and throughout the world.

    @Moving on, see ya ! enjoy

  22. Dave says:

    What a disgraceful decision, this county seems to have some deep seeded corruption that undermines the citizens and their tax dollars. Unbelievable that they would spend that much on a 3rd building for the sheriff and sheriff employees. These employees are single handedly tearing apart this county. Sad day for Flagler County.

  23. Heading North says:

    Moving On:
    I did exactly that 6 years ago when I saw the writing on the wall.
    I loved it in Flagler County, and Palm Coast, worked there for many years, made many friends, and generally enjoyed it, but when it started going downhill (with Manfre) I realized it wasn’t worth the aggravation.
    Good luck to you!
    And to the citizens of Flagler County, be well!

  24. Shark says:

    Between holland and staley they will probably double our taxes !!!!!

  25. Sean Peckham says:

    County owns 4 sick buildings !
    Will someone please tell me why the children in the old bunnell court house keep getting sick ?

  26. gmath55 says:

    I agree with Percy’s mother about not the same old, same old boring building(s). I would like to see an abstract looking building and there are lots of designs to choose from.;_ylt=AwrE1xvhBLZc5zsAYBVXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyamZhMGRqBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQTA1OTlfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=architectural+design+of+buildings&fr=mcsaoffblock

  27. Ben Hogarth says:

    While I think this is a great step forward, please do not forget how we got here. For those of you who are upset about how much money be invested moving forward, remember that this is how you do things right. The tragedy is that we couldn’t get it right the first time. You’ve held the last administration responsible to an extent and parted with them. Continue doing the right thing and ensure that Flagler County never suffers again. That’s really the only way to right this wrong in full – by learning from the sins of the past.

    Commissioners – thank you for changing direction and finally making headway on these various issues. Nothing right ever comes cheap or easy – I just wish the last administration shared that wisdom.

  28. JF says:

    What a complete waste of money. Ask Kevin Berry the former sheriff of Orange County what he thought about Mr. Staly and his irresponsible spendings. I too and re- locating my family out of this town. I’ve lived here since 1996 and this is just another slap in the face by out ELECTED OFFICIALS. God help you all come next election, but the damage will have already have been done. Shame on all of you ELECTED officials.

  29. Right says:

    @ VB,
    Let’s hope his political career (for any office) in this county is finished.

  30. Right says:

    @Robert Bianco MD,

    Would be nice if there were an investigation. My thought is it’ll never happen as there were probably too many hands in it.

  31. Steve says:

    Bye bye homeless

  32. RobJr says:

    Now let us see whose friend of a friend of a friend secures the building contract.

    Now that they have backdoored the homeless off the land, next on the agenda is for the city of palm coast to somehow find a way to outlaw homelessness and / or the activities that are part of being homeless.

    These folks are predictable, watch.

  33. JF says:

    And I have yet another question. Why is there t that you see Sheriffs Deputies sometimes 3 deep sitting on the side of the road or a parking lot not doing a damm thing. Hey Sheriff if you are reading this would you mind giving me an answer to this. You want more and more deputies to do what? Sit on their ass in parking lots talking BS?. Why don’t you take a close look at the county and what your people are doing. I know I worked in Law Enforcement for years here. WHAT A DAMM SHAME WE CANT JUST HAVE AN HONEST SYSTEM LILE IT USED TO BE. And by the way Sheriff are you willing to have a meet and greet:talk with the citizens of this county who have obviously been here a lot longer than you? If so I will be there because I have a ton of information I’d love to share. Y’all watch though this won’t happen . Just disgusted about this whole thing.

  34. DP says:

    What a piss poor process and decision made by all. The county owns the land the current operations center sits on. Tear the center down to the dirt and rebuild there. Either way the sheriff is stuck currently in the court house. The clerk of court needs to button his lip, work and help facilitate a positive environment, I’m sure if the shoe was on the other foot the sheriff would help. Let’s not have another country owned building, one now considered sick sit empty. We the tax payers are getting taxed out of our homes. All parties involved, pull up your big girl.panties, stop the BS waste of money, or we the voters will take action.

  35. John dolan esq says:

    I hope its has a nice Sally Port.

  36. Mark says:

    This citizen says hip, hip! Now the games can stop! This should have been done long ago.

  37. Dave says:

    @Agkistrodon You missed my point Agkistrodon. I was not defending their “right” to be there because they don’t have a right to be there. I even said “I’m not trying to say the homeless have a right to be there…” The homeless population isn’t just gonna go away because they build there. I was pointing out that it is a problem that needs to be dealt with. What are they doing about it? and where will they end up?

  38. Edith Campins says:

    The politicians have basically mortgaged our future.

  39. Right says:

    Is the land that FCSO now sits on contaminated too? Why not demolish the building and rebuild right there?
    Why do we need to build a cop shop here on the main road in our city? Since 1999 this place has been losing the very character that made it attractive to live here. I have nothing against law enforcement, In fact, I’m very supportive as I wore those shoes for a long time. I just don’t agree with the location for such a building. If anything, (and take Daytona PD as an example) it should be built where there will be plenty of room to expand in years to come.

  40. Dave says:

    Why couldn’t they just rebuild on the land already owned where the old operations center sits? Is it because the employees feel they are “too good” to work in Bunnell?

  41. Ben Hogarth says:

    Dave and others who have made similar statements…

    While Bunnell is the “county seat” both historically and to this day, we have to also remember where the entire legal concept derived from.. Similar to state capitals, the idea is to provide the most “access” to the public and their elected officials. So in essence, both state capitals and county seats were identified as the largest population centers of their respective constituents.

    Flagler County is a bit of a unique case in that the vast majority of its population incorporated into Palm Coast not that long ago. Palm Coast hosts roughly 80% of all residents in the county and this, according to historic doctrine – SHOULD now be the county “seat” (capital).

    Similarly at the State level there are discussions to make Orlando the State Capital of Florida. You may be wondering how this applies similarly as Miami has the largest population, not Orlando. The answer is simple – Orlando is centrally located between the other population centers in the State including Tampa and Jacksonville. The concept is the provide the most balanced and accessible public system.

    So anyone who argues in favor of keeping Bunnell as the County seat needs to look hard at law and democratic institutions. The argument simply doesn’t translate well when applying Republican principles in governance (not referring to the party).

    This was a good choice and will hopefully improve both public access to emergency responders and Sheriff based offices. I’m sure the people of Palm Coast can be relieved that while the costs are double now that a new building is needed – at least it will be right the second time around.

    My 2 cents

  42. Outsider says:

    So you’re telling me they can’t fix the old building for much less than 14 million dollars? And why is there no criminal investigation into the prior realtor/commissioner, and owners of the condemned building? Everyone knew it was a scam at the highest levels, and those people should be held personally liable for the costs involved. And who inspected and approved of the shoddy renovation of the sick building? What is this crap that the clerk doesn’t want the sheriff in “his” offices? Sorry Charlie; it’s MY office; I pay for all of this. I’m sick of these petty officials and their fragile egos costing us millions of dollars because they can’t get along. This place gets worse by the day.

  43. Kathy says:

    Today’s thought…if you are unable to wait for the conclusion of experts’ reports before spending $15Mil to get the answer you want…why should anyone believe anything is appropriately investigated in any case

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