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Faced With ‘Disgraceful’ Rent Increase at City Marketplace, Sheriff Will Move Palm Coast District Office to Old Sears Building

| May 7, 2019

Coming soon to a former Sears near you: the Flagler County Sheriff’s District Office. (© FlaglerLive)

For the Flagler County Sheriff’s Palm Coast District office at City Marketplace, it’s time to move. Temporarily, anyway: by the time $40,000 worth of reconstruction is done on the old Sears building on Palm Coast Parkway, the district office will move there, at least for a couple of years, before it moves into its more permanent home–one hopes, considering quicksand history–in a building yet to be constructed near the public library along the parkway.

County commissioners Monday gave administrator Jerry Cameron to go ahead with the plan to move to the Sears building as soon as it’s ready. The reason: the situation for the sheriff is “untenable” not only at the county courthouse (as he described it Monday), but it is also becoming financially untenable for the county at City Marketplace.

It’s only the latest example of the county’s largely self-inflicted and costly turmoil over land and building projects gone awry, going back to the Eden-gone-Hades of the old Memorial hospital and conversion into a sheriff’s operations center in 2013.

When the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office initially moved into its Palm Coast precinct at City Marketplace exactly six years ago this week, rent was $2,000 a month, including fees.

Only a year later, the landlord told the sheriff it was tripling the Common Area Maintenance fee from $420 to to $1,312, bringing the total rent charge to $2,900 a month. Negotiations reduced the requested increase but only for a time. As of a few months ago the rent was up to $4,950 for two units, now that the sheriff’s Police Athletic League had a unit as well.

Last week the landlord told the sheriff that rent would go up to $5,000 per unit–or $10,000 a month for the two units, totaling $120,000 a year. The sheriff is on a month-to-month lease at City Market Place since January.

“That’s disgraceful. We need to let that be known,” County Commission Chairman Don O’Brien said at a commission meeting Monday, when County Administrator Jerry Cameron laid out costs and options.

“We have tried to negotiate with the landlord,” Sheriff Rick Staly said of John C. Bills, the Palm Beach Gardens-based landlord. “But he is within his legal rights to do what he’s doing, although none of us like it.”

The sheriff’s district office wasn’t supposed to be at City Marketplace anymore. A year ago, the county commission bought the Wachovia Bank building off Old Kings Road for $1 million. The sheriff was supposed to move the district office there by January. But like so many real estate and building transactions the county has initiated since 2013, the plan to move into the old bank building unraveled, because the county bought it too quickly, without sufficient inspections to show that the roof needed to be replaced, some minor asbestos needed to be mitigated, and other repairs were to take a lot more time and money.

The building is still not done. The roof was replaced, Cameron said, but the interior is not completed. And by now the county no longer wants the building. It doesn’t need it.

Cameron sees moving the district office into the Sears building as the quickest and least expensive fix–putting aside the $1.1 million the county spent buying the Sears building, knowing it ultimately did not need it, either. “That would be a considerable savings if we were to go ahead and do that,” Cameron said, comparing the $40,000 reconstruction costs to the $120,000 that would be due in rent each year at City Marketplace. “Along with that put the bank building on the market, and when the Sears building was no longer needed for the sheriff’s operations, that we would put it on the market.”

Assuming either can sell.

“I hate to bring this up, but it’s a little of I told you so here,” Commissioner Dave Sullivan said. “Before we got into this position a year and a half ago, we bought the bank building for a place for the Palm Coast precinct office. That’s the way that was presented, with some minor modifications, and we were supposed to be able to get into that bank building for the Palm Coast precinct. At first it was going to be January of this year. We knew at that time the owner of City walk, the sheriff even told us that, that he was going to continually raise that rent.” (Sullivan and others repeatedly referred to City Marketplace by its former name, though City Walk was dropped in 2010 after Universal threatened the then-owner with a lawsuit.)

“We had a plan. We’re not idiots,” Sullivan continued. “We had a plan to alleviate what was going to be a City Walk situation. We then got into a situation where modifying the bank building was taking more time due to a number of reasons, availability of our internal work crews and associates, putting a new roof on the bank building, things like that.” He did not mention the lack of sufficient inspections before the purchase, or the lack of transparency to commissioners at the time. “The horse is already out of the barn is where we are now. But just for public record, your board of county commissioners thought we had made a correct decision based on a recommendation by the sheriff and our former county administrator to alleviate the situation earlier this year to get out of the City Walk deal. So now we’re faced with this.”

During the discussion, Staly noted that he’d asked then-Administrator Craig Coffey for a new building next to the library (what would turn out to be the current plan) but was rebuffed.

He recommended the Cameron approach regarding the Sears building. “I am required to have a district office in the city,” Staly said. “That is the quickest fix and the quickest move, and the least expensive.” The sheriff’s purchasing department and its human resources and finance records would be relocated into the Sears building.

“It does not do much for the situation we’re currently under for the two years of the construction,” the sheriff said, referring to the rest of his staff’s working conditions at the county courthouse, an unresolved problem. “But it will help improve the things that I just mentioned, and I think it’s the best way to go. It’s not the ideal building for a district office, but I also know we have a light at the end of the tunnel.”

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23 Responses for “Faced With ‘Disgraceful’ Rent Increase at City Marketplace, Sheriff Will Move Palm Coast District Office to Old Sears Building”

  1. Eileen Araujo says:

    Marketplace won’t have to worry about having any tenants at those prices….Another building that will sit empty or be torn down in a year or two…Good for you Sheriff Staly, smart decision.

  2. Kathy says:

    “Staly noted that he’d asked then-Administrator Craig Coffey for a new building next to the library (what would turnout to be the current plan) but was rebuffed.” *** Oh, I see, thanks…that clarified a lot of the past year & a half circus we’ve been watching.***

    “The horse is already out of the barn” – Don all of this has made you look like idiots (your word, not mine) but it’s your job to put the horse back in the barn. It’s adorable that you lay excuses for you & your fellow Commissioners but that excuse only applies to you while you or your fellows trash the past at every opportunity. Good to know.

  3. Agkistrodon says:

    Noticing all the Empty SPACE in City Marketplace, it is ODD that they would try to raise rent. If they lose many more renters, they will be an empty strip mall. A bird in hand beats two in the bush.

  4. Mark says:

    All these temporary plans/fixes will ultimately cost way more than a permanent fix.

  5. Conceerned Citizen says:

    It should be really simple.

    ALL County Offices including the SO should be located in safe and secure County owned buildings. And all offices should be consolidated as much as possible.

    This County has wasted to much money on bum purchases. First it was the old hospital, then the old bank at Old Kings. Now it is the Sears building. We are talking millions of OUR tax dollars that have been squandered on needless real estate. And no one is being made to be held accountable.

    Are we going to do a COMPLETE inspection of the Sears building and make it public? Or will it be another old hospital purchase fraught with issues. If the Sheriff utilizes the Sears building does he really need a brand new building in Palm Coast? That will be yet another multi million dollar squander?

    In regards to Comissioner Sullivan’s comment abut being idiots. Between your numerous irresponsible purchases and the current handling of the Bings Situation you have a long way to go to prove that you aren’t.

    Over the past year I have lost faith in much of our leadership and will remember this next election.

  6. DP says:

    Again another waste of tax payer’s money with the old bank. The county now has 2 of 3 buildings ( holding my breath on the sears bld.) that now have a documented issue’s. Who or what developer would want to buy either of those 2 buildings??? Again another waste of funds. Simple fix, 1.) Tear down the old/new sheriffs operation center and rebuild it there, in Bunnell, where it SHOULD BE. 2.) Complete the renovation of the bank building, move the substation “AS” planned into the building. 3.) Sell the sears building or tear it down, and or sell property minus the building. 4.) Tighten the belt and pay the ridiculously city walk rent, until the bank is completed. Either way we the TAX payer’s are once again paying the price. We need leaders in important positions to listen to the citizen’s, use there god given brains and think, or we find new commissioners in both the city and county. Time to change, before you TAX your citizen’s out of the county!!!!!!!

  7. SteveO says:

    The solution is very, very simple!

    The county owns plenty of land off of Justice Lane in Bunnell, where the old Sheriff’s Office and Jail are located. Build a new Operations Center there. Keep the Sears building as the Palm Coast District office. The Sheriff’s office needs to be in Bunnell, as is the courthouse, the State Attorneys office, the BOCC and all Constitutional Officers.

    Cowtowing to PC is a bad move. Seems everything Staley gets involved in turns to a damn fiasco.

  8. atilla says:

    Next to the library must have been someones pipe dream o more like the right hand doesn’t know what’s the left hand is doing. Is it a series tryout for the keystone cops?

  9. John dolan esq. says:

    City Marketplace has been a total failure. Always amazed how the greedy slumlord owners have no ethics and would rather have the place empty.

  10. The original woody says:

    Talk about homeless.

  11. Flatsflyer says:

    Thought that building was going on the market to make up for the $1,000,000,000. error of buying it. Now the Sheriff is burning through buildings like lightning, a shopping center, a hospital, a bank building, a Retail store, planning new building behind the library, planning a new building in Bunnell. This idiot is trying real hard to make the County file for Chapter 7 and the BOCC are providing hundreds of gallons of gasoline to stoke the fire.

  12. Not Bloody Likely says:

    Not surprising. Looked a few years ago at moving my offices into City Marketplace, but was way overpriced, with ridiculous non negotiable CAM fees. That John Bills had quite the attitude about him, as if he was sitting on some pile of golden goodness everyone wants.

    Place was and still is mostly empty. Maybe at 30% capacity, and 50% more expensive than any other storefront in town. Maybe he just thinks that some Saudi prince or hedge fund monkey will come along and drop a bunch of cash in his hand. If so, good for him. Til then, let the place stay a ghosttown and he can pay the mortgage and CAM all on his own.

    I think the sheriff should permanently keep an office in the Sears building, an office at the jail, and offices at the courthouse. No Taj Mahal needed for this small county operation, especially anything on the order of 15m, which WILL BE 20m+ when done. Since when do all the cops need to be in the same place at the same time?

  13. Doug says:

    Commissioner Sullivan,

    Apparently someone in county government is an idiot for not getting the proper inspections done before spending a million dollars of our taxpayer money for a building that needed a roof and asbestos addressed. But history shows that NO elected official will ever take responsibility for a bad decision.

    I’ve got some land in the Everglades I’d like to sell Flagler County.

  14. Alonzo Hudson says:

    Do Palm Coast think about the cost of anything before they purchase it. Tax payer going to waste thanks to unwise decisions. They don’t care. To make a crazy purchase one time is bad but to continue with the same losing results is stupid. These figure earn big pay checks and make unwise tax payer money decision.

  15. GT says:

    Maybe we should put our sheriffs office in a big tent in a field somewhere, this seems appropriate for the circus
    our city leaders are running. The problem is these clowns are hurting all of us and keeping our Sheriffs dept.
    from doing a already difficult job.

  16. Heading North says:

    This entire scenario is so far in the dark, serious doubts it will EVER see the light of day again!!!

  17. Dave says:

    I heard there is a nice place with working facilities out at Russell landing in Bunnell the Sheriff can use that for the new operations center.

  18. Hammock Bear says:

    Has everyone forgotten that our law enforcement officers risk their lives everyday for the rest of us? All the bickering has solved nothing in this search for the Sheriff’s Dept. to find a decent location for their needs. Let’s get them the building best suited for their department. And let us get this done now !!

  19. Dennis McDonald says:

    The BOCC meetings[2016] just prior to purchase I went and publicly asked them not to buy the bank/morgue because banks are purpose built. They are a building built around a Vault AND drive up window mechanicals ! Changing them to another commercial use is ALWAYS very costly and time consuming. I also asked them to take an acre at the library and build 4 to 5000sq ft NEW building[what a concept for the BOCC…NEW !] The BOCC under Hansen’s direction flatly rejected the idea and would not have it. Problem was Coffey had already sold team McLaughlin/Hansen and BOCC members.

    YES, the Sheriff did push for this option. The Sheriff was right on point as this IS geographically dead center in the City of Palm Coast and adjacent to the highest population center. Another splendid example as how the BOCC should NOT be lead by the nose by their EMPLOYEE ! [HINT! Hadeed]

  20. thomas says:

    If the County Commission had a duck it would drown.

  21. Barney says:

    This is fun. actually more fun to read then watching the houswives of NY. Throw in the homeless debacle and the Bings situation, and this county reminds me of Mayberry RFD.

  22. BanjoMatic says:

    How ironic that the FSO is homeless.

  23. Jim O says:

    First, I thought some of my real estate deals sucked. WOW, Palm Coast city management make me look great. Thanks for the boost. It looks like they truly are not capable of buying property,
    Second, frankly without Domonic’s City Market would already be a ghost town.

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