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County Calms Bunnell’s Anger Over Sheriff’s Move to Palm Coast, Disarming Threats of Lawsuit

| June 13, 2019

The relic Bunnell doesn't want to lose. (© FlaglerLive)

The relic Bunnell doesn’t want to lose. (© FlaglerLive)

“By the way, I’m building a house in Bunnell,” Sheriff Rick Staly told the Bunnell City Commission Monday evening as he was providing a policing update. “It’s not in the city, but a Bunnell mailing address, out on West 100.” He was referring to his future house on Crescent Lake. (He does not intend to move there before the end of his term, or terms, as sheriff.)

“So you’re in the county and not the city?” Mayor Catherine Robinson asked him, her tone as impish as her smile.


“I am in the county, yes,” the sheriff replied.

“We’ll have to work on that.”

“Well, you’re going to have to annex pretty far out.”

“I’m game, if you are,” Robinson said. She was kidding, though only tactically. There was a point–or a dig–in her interaction with the sheriff. It craftily related to what the sheriff and the county administrator, Jerry Cameron, were to discuss after the update: the status of the sheriff’s operations center’s future location.

The Bunnell commission threatened to sue the county after the County Commission voted to move the operations center from Bunnell to a location next to the county public library on Palm Coast Parkway. That threat is still on the table. The county now calls that operations center a “district office,” a distinction intended to sidestep the presumption that it would be the sheriff’s headquarters, or that the move would circumvent the legal requirement that the sheriff’s main office be located in the county seat, which would be Bunnell. To counter Bunnell’s threat, the county intimated that it could easily extend the county seat to Palm Coast without affecting political boundaries and jurisdictions.

Bunnell invited the sheriff to provide the update. But the sheriff knew what was up.

“I suspect that the reason this request was,” Staly told the commission at the end of his brief presentation, is “because of the decision by the county to build a new district 2 administration and operations center, and so because of the issues with the operations center at 901 East Moody. And I will leave that to Mr. Cameron to answer that. But what I wanted to do was, I anticipate at some point in the future there’ll be three full operating district offices.”

In other words, though the sheriff has had to evacuate the center on Moody Boulevard a year ago, the move to Palm Coast is part of a diffusion of operations center–the first of three steps, or the second of three of the just-opened, tiny district office in the Hammock were to count as one of the three offices. The sheriff said that in time, with projected population increases, all three district offices, including one in Bunnell, will be fully functional. But Bunnell will be last on the list of buildings constructed. Palm Coast is next, and that will be a massive, $12 to $15 million project that will have all the looks of a headquarters.  

“That was one of the concerns that some of the citizens had,” Robinson said, “that if you moved our operations center to Palm Coast, would we get that same support and back-up, because it is important to us, and vital.” Robinson was changing tune somewhat: the commission’s opposition to the sheriff’s move, bitter just a few weeks ago, was focused on its legalities, not on the service the sheriff’s deputies were providing–particularly since Bunnell has claimed all along that it’s maintaining its police department because it can provide for its own policing. Nevertheless, the sheriff also provides significant backing to policing in the city.


“We’re committed to putting it here, we’re committed to this being the county seat, we’re committed to protecting the heritage of Bunnell and the community pride of Bunnell.”


“To answer that, there will be absolutely no change,” Staly said. In fact, training, Crime Scene Investigations and evidence storage will have new facilities in Bunnell in a matter of months, and the jail will remain there, generating significant traffic by deputies in and out of the jail complex and through Bunnell.

Cameron made points he’s been making for weeks: that the sheriff has been in a “dysfunctional” situation, with his core functions split and inefficiently housed between the courthouse and the agency’s old administrative building near the jail. If it weren’t for technology, the agency would have been “crippled,” he said. He suggested that “we may ultimately have to spend some money” for a temporary solution for the three years before a new district office can be built. Cameron was not holding out much hope for finding a compromise at the county courthouse, where the sheriff has had a significant portion of his operations but in inadequate space. Tom Bexley, the clerk of court, has been unwilling to provide more space, saying it would jeopardize his own office’s responsibilities to the public.

On Monday, however, Cameron was candid enough no longer to play wordgames with the name of the sheriff’s operations center. He did concede that the move to Palm Coast would be a “temporary operations center” for the sheriff, “and ultimately his district office.” That would be followed by the construction of a district office in Bunnell, though the timing of that remains dependent on getting enough revenue from the county’s sales surtax to finance the debt for the building. He expects that to be possible in three years–likely a more optimistic projection designed to placate Bunnell than a realistic one: the same revenue is to finance the $12 to $15 million sheriff’s building in Palm Coast, with other capital needs elsewhere in the county.

“We’re committed to putting it here, we’re committed to this being the county seat, we’re committed to protecting the heritage of Bunnell and the community pride of Bunnell,” Cameron told the commissioners. “We believe that the success of Flagler County as a whole is tied to its municipalities, and Bunnell is in a curious position that we recognize. While you want growth and jobs, you want to preserve your heritage, you want to preserve your way of life, and it’s going to take careful planning to do that.”

Cameron then threw the commission an unexpected bone–a new approach to planning in the county and the cities’ rims. It had nothing to do with the sheriff’s issue. But it appeared to be another attempt at extending olive branches to the city, if only to calm its fears of county presumptions. The idea is the result of discussions he’s had with fellow-city managers of Palm Coast and Flagler Beach: “In order to get that planning, I am proposing among all municipalities that we get together and put together a joint planning plan between the municipalities and the county so we can present to our governing bodies that for adoption. That would mean that anything that is contiguous to the city limits of Bunnell would be subject to joint planning, not just to county planning, then they do it in a way you don’t want.” And vice versa.

Such an idea would have been unthinkable a year ago, when Palm Coast and the county had different managers, and when turf battles defined all.

But for all of Cameron’s ideas, one commissioner was fixated on the location of the operations center. “Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to tear down the old one there and rebuild there,” Donnie Nobles, one of two newer city commissioners, asked Cameron, referring to the operations center at 901 Moody Boulevard. Cameron said no: it would be unsuitable for sheriff’s employees, “but it may be a suitable place for future growth,” he said, “it may be a suitable place to work something out with the city of Bunnell to things that they might want to do.” The county  is still awaiting the results of further testing in the building. “If we can’t get that clean bill of health, we’ll need to tear it down and then decide what public purpose it can be used for.”

Commissioner Bill Baxley was skeptical about the county’s decision to start building the Palm Coast district office before Bunnell’s, but didn’t press the point. But for Robinson’s quips at the beginning of the segment, other commissioners stayed silent: here was their chance to challenge either the sheriff or the county administrator directly about the decision to build in Palm Coast.  They did not take it, or deem it necessary to take it anymore. It appears that the sheriff’s and Cameron’s joint appearance before the commission on Monday went a significant distance to disarm the city’s threats of a lawsuit and calm its anger.

“We’re moving on,” Alvin Jackson, the city manager, said in a brief interview Thursday. “We realize that the board of county commissioners have made a final decision. That’s why we invited the sheriff and the county administrator to appear before our commission.”

 

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12 Responses for “County Calms Bunnell’s Anger Over Sheriff’s Move to Palm Coast, Disarming Threats of Lawsuit”

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    To all of our elected and apponted County/City leadership in Flagler County,

    As a registered voter and tax payer in this County I hereby demand you stop acting like 3 year olds in a sand box. i don’t know about the rest of you all but I’m tired of the pissing contests.

    Between the multiple issues in the Sheriff’s Office and the shady at best real estate deals our leadership no longer cares abot it’s constiuents. It’s all about egos and linning pockets.

    Our leadership nees to take a deep breath and start doing it’s job. You are not irreplacable.

  2. Dennis McDonald says:

    The abandoned Sheriff HQ for $1,230,000 of our Tax $$ was made possible by the City of Bunnell. How ?

    In 2012 there were plans to renovate the old Court House to use as the Sheriff HQ. For whatever reasons it never happened. But what was obvious was the old court house stood in the way of elevating the old hospital that belonged to Crossroads LLC. to be the top contender. Revels,Hanns, McLaughlin voted to GIVE the old court house to Bunnell ! The idea that Bunnell could afford to renovate 50,000 sq ft was delusional pie in the sky. Their own Bunnell city manager Larry Williams told them the same and within a year Bunnell was forced to concede and gave the building back. BUT, that gave Revels, Hanns, Mclaughlin a one year window to play Flagler Monopoly with our $$ and buy the old hospital. This property was the ONLY option for the new HQ that required US to BUY ! Did I mention this real estate “toilet” was on the 2006/07 Brownfield list for Flagler County and was KNOWN to the Flagler County Engineer to be in a USGS Flood Plain !

    If Bunnell had not played Flagler Monopoly with Revels-Hanns-McLaughlin they might have a New HQ in the old court house. We would NOT be out $23 million and most of all we would not have poisoned the good folks that PROTECT us ! Bunnell should apologize to the Deputies and Staff that have been adversely effected and publicly acknowledge to refrain from any of their actions that can impact all of us in Flagler so negatively.

  3. Clueless says:

    Good luck on keeping your Accreditation status. I’m sure the Accreditation Commission will be anxious to hear about your non-compliance. Good luck with that. As they say:. The blind leading the blind. This agency has been in the toilet since Staly took over. So sad to see.

  4. Dave says:

    Donnie Nobles we applaud you!! Out of this entire story his question on why we cant just build a new operations center where the old one is ,was the the most competent thing I read. Cameron !, what kind of answer is ,”no that wouldn’t be suitable for the employees”!? A brand new building wouldn’t be suitable for the employees!? Well too darn bad then get new employees! How can there be anything to complain about a brand new building? Unless they just dont like the city its located in!!!?

  5. Willy Boy says:

    Transitioning to a job in the public sector could be a nasty shock.

  6. Kathy says:

    Well, this is an interesting headline. I look forward to a similar headline regarding the Sheriff’s Operation Center​…let’s expound on this paragraph from https://flaglerlive.com/137851/county-calms-bunnell/​ …​

    But for all of Cameron’s ideas, one commissioner was fixated on the location of the operations center. “Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to tear down the old one there and rebuild there,” Donnie Nobles, one of two newer city commissioners, asked Cameron, referring to the operations center at 901 Moody Boulevard. Cameron said no: it would be unsuitable for sheriff’s employees, “but it may be a suitable place for future growth,” he said, “it may be a suitable place to work something out with the city of Bunnell to things that they might want to do.” The county is still awaiting the results of further testing in the building. “If we can’t get that clean bill of health, we’ll need to tear it down and then decide what public purpose it can be used for.”

    ​Let’s really take this in – ​Cameron said no: it would be unsuitable for sheriff’s employees, “but it may be a suitable place for future growth,” he said, “it may be a suitable place to work something out with the city of Bunnell

    Absorb this….you (you reading this right now) are less important than an employee of FCSO….let me say that again FCSO suffers from high-horse syndrome and they can’t see you down there.

  7. GA Barker says:

    Bunnell seems like a kid with a chip on his shoulder. Threatening a lawsuit? Really??!! Isn’t it important that the Sheriffs Dept have a decent working space? What does it matter where it is located? You haven’t seen people in Palm Coast, all these years, crying, moaning, and threatening lawsuit, because the operation center was located in Bunnell. Get ver it and let the Sheriffs do their job, which will be the same regardless f where they work out of!

  8. Charles "Bub" Robson says:

    I personally can not believe the powers to be on the county level can not find a suitable location in Bunnell. Bunnell being the city with the largest land mass in Flagler County has plenty of property to build on. This is nothing less then crappy politics in play. Bunnell is the County seat and Bunnell leaders should demand the next Sheriff’s HQ be located in Bunnell. What is next for Bunnell? I do not know the answer but this situation looks nothing less then a POWER PLAY. If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck it is a duck. Bunnell do not give up or all County Services will be leaving Bunnell.

  9. Full Otto says:

    Flagler politics stink. Hopefully FlaglerLive will keep us informed so we know who to vote for.

  10. Trailer Bob says:

    I have over three acres of commercial land across from the Bimini Bar on route 100. close to the mondex and the city of Bunnell. I think what many of us are concerned with is the we will have no police coverage out here in the Mondex area. Also, why is this such a huge issue that goes on forever? I would like to know that I can get a police officer out here is someone is breaking into my house. So please tell us in plain English…are you going to have a physical presence out here…and where will it be.

  11. LEO says:

    The location of district offices or operation centers has no impact on police presence. Deputies and officers are assigned to zones and sectors. So in plain English it’s like a sprinkler system. The well pump can be any where on the property. The sprinklers do the work and they are spread out around the yard in a manor to cover every area. Deputies and officers do not respond to calls from the office. The are patrolling their assigned areas in vehicles. The vehicle is their mobile office.

  12. Concerned Citizen says:

    Florida Statute is quite clear on this issue.

    ” The Sheriff or his Deputy must maintain residency in the county seat or within 2 miles of it.”

    According to the statue the Sheriff who is entrusted to uphold the law and swore an oath to do so is legally bound to follow all laws. If he can’t be trusted to follow a simple civil statute how can we trust him to fully enforce criminal laws.

    Also the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office maintains accreditation. Accreditation is important because it holds you to higher standards. It also provides additional funding for your agency. It would be interesting to see if non compliance with Florida law would invalidate accreditation.

    The most simple solution would be this. Find the Sheriff or the Under Sheriff a functional working office in Bunnell. I’m sure there is space at the Courthouse,EOC or at other county facilities. He isn’t required to be at the Operations Center full time. This way he meets the legal requirements mandated by the state. Then Bunnell can go bak to playing nice and everyone can get along and get back to work.. Instead of wasting valuable time and money arguing over nonsense.

    Now I’m just a simple maintenance guy with prior military,law enforcement and fire rescue service. I have no interest in politics. It seems sad though that most of us have solutions when our leadership does not. Might be time to make some changes in this county.

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