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‘Are You Kidding?’ Deeper Inspection Finds Captain’s BBQ Building Sound and Repairable for $60,000

| June 14, 2019

Captain's BBQ, to the left, appears not to be in as poor shape as assumed for the past year. (© FlaglerLive)

Captain’s BBQ, to the left, appears not to be in as poor shape as assumed for the past year. (© FlaglerLive)

Last Updated: 1:54 p.m.

The Captain’s BBQ building at Bing’s Landing is nowhere near the poor conditions its owners or the former county administrator alleged it to be after all–at least not according to the latest, more probing inspection by county staff. (See the summary inspection report below. See the “structural assessment” of the building, with numerous pictures of the inspection, here.)

A “destructive” inspection that removed walls and examined the building’s foundations discovered that the structure is essentially sound, and that it can be repaired for a mere $60,000, or considerably less than half the building’s current $175,000 value. That makes building a new structure for Captain’s unnecessary, and would nullify the debates of the last months. The $175,000 value is based on a June 10 appraisal.

“It’s a dramatic turnaround,” County Administrator Jerry Cameron said this morning. “The fix will be much easier than we anticipated before.”

Yet for almost a year, the county administration and county commissioners operated on ostensibly false assumptions resulting from a previous, superficial inspection. The administration wrote a new lease for Captain’s assuming it needed a new building. The commission hurriedly approved that lease, before rescinding it, and eventually provoked a lawsuit by Captain’s that’s not about to go away just because new facts are emerging.

Cameron informed county commissioners of the new inspection’s findings in a memo Thursday. The inspection was conducted by Mark Boice, the county’s chief building inspector. “The County’s building official preformed an invasive (destructive) inspection of the exterior support walls,” he wrote. “This is an area that could not be observed in previous inspections. The result was that these structures had not suffered the deterioration observed in the floor support systems and, in fact, in most areas they remained in near new condition. Previous assumptions were that the building had probably deteriorated uniformly thus necessitating demolition due to cost vs. value calculations.” He added: “This process revealed the reliability of destructive vs. non-destructive inspections.”

The building’s repairs would take four weeks–or at least require Captain’s operations to be interrupted for four weeks, Cameron said. He said bringing in food trucks or similar means to enable Captain’s to continue operating on site, at the county’s expense, could be one of the options.

“I think I should get a little credit,” County Commissioner Dave Sullivan said today. It was his motion on June 3 that, in part, and in his word, called for “an investigation done to see if, for 50 percent of the current building value, it could be brought up to standards where it could last for the end of the lease.”

“We wouldn’t even have done another inspection if I didn’t make the motion the way I did,” Sullivan said. “I was the one that put my ass on the line on that. I know Joe [Mullins] talks a lot but he was going to make a motion to approve the new building–that I stopped.” (See Sullivan’s full motion.)

According to the lawsuit filed against the county by Captain’s last week, the assumptions that the building had to be replaced was based on observations by then-County Administrator Craig Coffey, Facilities Director Heidi Petito and her lieutenant, Mike Dickson, going back to early 2018. Coffey was forced to resign in January. Petito and Dickson were again involved in the work that led to Thursday’s findings, however.

captains inspection

Mark Boice conducting the inspection. Click on the image for larger view. (Flagler County)

Those findings don’t nullify the lawsuit, in which Captain’s argues that the county commission passed a lease amendment in November 2018 allowing Captain’s to build a new, 5,000 square-foot structure at Bing’s. The county rescinded that lease two weeks later–an action the restaurant says was illegal. Earlier this month, the county voted to end any involvement of Captain’s in moving the building, or in financing its construction, if that became necessary. The commission had also directed Cameron to establish more certainly whether the existing building was in as bad a shape as Coffey and Captain’s owners had claimed.

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“I was not aware of the inspection or that walls were removed,” Jay Livingston, one of Captain’s attorneys, said this morning. “It’s also concerning that the same people that have claimed that it was not salvageable are now saying that it is, for a significantly less amount.” He said Boice had been involved “at least in some of the analysis of the original reviews of it.” Further, when Livingston discussed the Hammock Community Association’s demand for a deeper inspection with Cameron, “the current administrator said he didn’t think it was necessary because he had visually inspected it himself.”

“This changing course is very concerning and upsetting to me and I’m sure my clients would agree,” Livingston said. “There was some pretty conclusive information given to us on the issue, that was the reason why my clients went to the lengths that they went to find a solution. In the background during the last year, a lot of work, effort, consultants and money was spent in reliance of what the county told us.”

In other words, what amounts, potentially, to a year’s worth of false assumptions was costly in money, time and planning for the business. If the building was repairable, Livingston said, “not only would we have never proposed to build a new building but none of this controversy would have ever happend, so it’s very unfortunate to be hearing this.”

He also questioned the extent of the inspection and how the county could so quickly conclude what it would cost to repair the building, especially when, only recently, Livingston and Al Hadeed, the county attorney, were working on lease terms that would also take into account what to do should the building fail before a new building could be replaced. “Even at that point they were concerned about the building failing, before we could get a new building constructed. And now it can be built for $60,000,” Livingston said. He questioned whether an inspection would be thorough enough without shutting the whole building down to conduct it–and that, he said, did not happen. “It would be interesting to know what they did to know that conclusion, and how quickly they came up with a fixed number. Where did that come from? If the inspection happened this week, that’s a pretty quick estimate to get an estimate for a building that was unsalvageable only a month ago.”

Livingston did not address the inspection’s findings’ effects on the lawsuit Captain’s just filed, saying it was too early in the process, and he was not the lead attorney on that lawsuit.

The lawsuit may have been an attempt to sway the county into a settlement more favorable to Captain’s. The latest inspection’s findings could buttress the county’s position.

A sample of the 'destructive' inspection at the restaurant. Click on the image for larger view. (Flagler County)

A sample of the ‘destructive’ inspection at the restaurant. Click on the image for larger view. (Flagler County)

“I don’t know if this would be considered weapons or not,” Cameron said. “The commission has taken the position all along that they rescinded the other lease and that the 2016 lease is governing. A lot of the decisions that were being made were based on the fact that we could not repair that building for less than 50 percent of its value. Those were all things that you could determine by looking at them but not scientifically, until we got an actual appraisal, and until we tore into walls, you couldn’t definitely say how much repairs were going to cost. But once the commission instructed me to tell them how long that building could last, the only way to do that was to do destructive testing, and the destructive testing, or inspection, canceled out a lot of the assumptions that we had.”

In a text in early afternoon, after speaking with his clients at the restaurant, Livingston said the county never told the co-owners–Mike Goodman or Chris Herrera–that an inspection was taking place, nor were either present at the time of the inspection–an unusual way for a landlord to work on a tenant’s building.

“From what we can tell they removed a 3×3 foot portion of the wall in the kitchen and molding in the front room,” Livingston said. “No indication they inspected crawl spaces or roof. When Mr. Cameron came on board with the County it was Mark Boyce who handled the prior inspection that was used to conclude the building was not worth repairing. According to what we have been told in the past a $60,000 repair bill will exceed the 50% threshold that will require the facility to be brought up to code. I would assume that would include, among other things, making sure the finished floor elevation is above grade.”

The Hammock Community Association since December has been fighting the county’s and Captain’s plans to move the building or expand it, demonstrating weekly outside Bing’s and filling commission chambers with its supporters every time Captain’s was on the commission agenda. Early this morning, the association circulated an email to its members with the subject line: “Are you kidding?”

“After seeing the results and pictures of hell this building is in excellent condition I will not support building a new building,” County Commissioner Joe Mullins said in a written statement late Thursday. “I also had similar questions and concerns that I’m sure you guys do right now how did this building fell inspection earlier and become a condemned building and the same people inspected it and found it was in excellent shape. This has a lot of similarities to the sheriffs office and the inspections that were done they are from my understanding management told them not to go deep into the buildings and also suggested what they would like them to find. They were simply creating the outcome that they wanted in both situations and deceiving the public to basically pull off an agenda that they had for personal benefit. We will not build a new building and I am going to ask the county attorney to do a thorough investigation into the commissioners and inspection process also to fight and hold our ground that that building will only be repaired.”

Cameron cautioned that the latest inspection may not be all-revealing. “We must be careful not to guarantee that the building will meet expectations,” he said in a release issued this morning. “Although the areas we inspected are very encouraging, there may be issues in other areas not uncovered.”

[This is a developing story. More soon.]

The County’s Summary Inspection Report:

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29 Responses for “‘Are You Kidding?’ Deeper Inspection Finds Captain’s BBQ Building Sound and Repairable for $60,000”

  1. Hammock Resident says:

    I do believe Ms Heidi and her right hand Mike need to go! I was at the meeting where she stated the building was unrepairable due to her professional opinion! Based on lack of knowledge! Not a professional and informed opinion. Do we need this type of leadership in our building department? I think there are a lot of “CMA” and the h—l with the truth in this situation! Come on Commissioners, get rid of the followers and get some real leaders in the important positions so we can get out of this hole we are in!

  2. snapperhead says:

    “They were simply creating the outcome that they wanted in both situations and deceiving the public to basically pull off an agenda that they had for personal benefit.”


    “This changing course is very concerning and upsetting to me and I’m sure my clients would agree,” Livingston said. “There was some pretty conclusive information given to us on the issue, that was the reason why my clients went to the lengths that they went to find a solution. In the background during the last year, a lot of work, effort, consultants and money was spent in reliance of what the county told us.”

    What conclusive evidence was that counselor? A superficial inspection? Before going through the expense of consultants, lawyers etc etc did your clients request a more thorough inspection by the county? I don’t seem to recall that request at any meetings or any records, likely because the conclusion just found would hinder their plans for expansion on our dime.

  3. thomas says:

    The Flagler County government never ceases to amaze me.
    It reminds me of an old movie titled “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight”.

  4. Agkistrodon says:

    Perhaps the recently resigned inspector, or one of his buddies did the initial inspection………………living in Flagler County is wonderful, as long as you only look at what they want you to. But if you just scratch the surface, and then take a good look, you see what is really going on. And in the words of Ronnie Van Zandt, “Cause there’s things goin’ on that you don’t know”…..

  5. Dave says:

    Great News and hope this gets us one step closer to removing the Shadey buisness owners of Captains BBQ! Keep them out of our park! Haha

  6. marlee says:

    Thank you! to ALL who consistently questioned the answers!

  7. palmcoaster says:

    Same heads of inspection and different outcome? sounds like 1st inspection was fraud…what about having those heads sent to the gallows (guillotine) Marie Antoinette style?

  8. Flyinbird says:

    I have been saying this since Nov 2018at the cc meeting coffey And connissioners said Building was inspected and unrepairable.Coffey and the cc are a bunch of dummies do they think we taxpayers are asleep . I’m 86 and I have never seen any framed structure that couldn’t be redone .gcommiasioners get yourasses in gear stop bullshitting us fix the building and end it . How much corruption do you people think we aregoing to tolerate . Coffey must be charged for all the malfeasance, hospital plantation bay , Captns etc

  9. Rick Belhumeur says:

    I spoke to the Commission on that fateful day that a “lease extension” was approved. I requested that they do their own homework because you can’t always believe what staff tells you. Now it it appears that I was exactly correct. At times they will ask for what they want and not necessarily what they need. I wish to thank the Commission for making the right decision and revisiting this from the “ground up”… literally.

  10. Flagler Paddler says:

    All of this shady dealings going on is more reason to have a forensic audit of the County’s finances during the Coffey years by an independent special counsel. This is just one of many.

  11. ASF says:

    Considering the poor record that the County building inspectors have been doing as regards other facilities–and the financial and public health ramification of their “mistakes” when discovered later–I would not take this article at face value. it feels like a political move in itself–just one that is being pulled off in reverse, by the opposing side.

  12. Here we go again says:

    My question is: We’re does the responsibility for Landon and Coffey come in?

  13. Flyinbird says:

    At the Nov meeting after the vote which was passed it was slimmeee Nate who started the vote off and asked for the board to take a final .vote it was approved by Nate ( who stuck his knife into our county. (And Hansen quickly followed with a yay vote .Sullivan also voted in favor of the new lease . Erickson was not present and O’Brien abstained. Vote went down 3 to 2. Every one in theroomwasshockedbecause it happened so fast like it was all set up…. after the meeting broke I went up to Sullivan with the leases and asked him if he read them and he said no. I had the leases in my hand and handed them to him he refused to take them and said I don’t need to read them ………… thanks Sullivan your the kind of gate keeper we need in this county just like all the rest.

  14. Dennis McDonald says:

    Read the lawsuit that was filed and refer to “the meeting” where it was ALL decided without public knowledge it was even happening. Then decided for the BOCC what the outcome was. OR maybe Team McLaughlin rounded up three votes ?? Ask Hadeed he had a front row seat, what did he do or advise……………………………!

    Or did I miss that meeting where they voted to initiate this process ? Who gave the legal advice ?

    Hadeed the most expensive employee in both Flager and Volusia. What a good value for OUR $$$

  15. Alphonse Demoto says:

    Best not to rush to judgement again. Proofs in the pudding. How often is government off on their estimates to things. And this is a renovation. You can double that estimate and still not cover all the variables.

  16. Are you joking? says:

    Isn’t the the same thing that is happening at the abandoned sheriff’s office. No one had stated that building can not be repaired and yet we are building a new $15,000,000.00 sheriff’s office…HELLO!!?

  17. hawkeye says:

    Boycott captains bbq, if you want real good bbq go to Smokin D’s

  18. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Before blaming Ms. Heidi and Mike please keep in mind that Coffey was their boss – he dictated to everyone what he wanted from them – they had no choice. Several county hard working employees have confided this to me going way back. Too bad the commissioners didn’t make a move until my former commission candidate adversary – now commissioner Joe Mullins had the guts to make the long past due motion to get rick of this crook ( my opinion). Heidi has been put in charge of half the county and does her very best as Director of General Services – including getting the Plantation Bay water fiasco ‘dumped’ on her head also.

    No county should allow any administrator such power to be able to hire and fire everyone but the attorney…another much needed past due action by the commission.

  19. Outsider says:

    Looks like we were about to be taken for another ride by the mobsters running this city. Those building materials do in fact look brand new. I see nothing decaying at all. This whole fiasco leads me to wonder why a private business is taking up so much public space when you can barely find a parking spot on the weekend to access the park. Is the old lease about to run out?

  20. Heading North says:

    Possibly the same inspection outfit that did the Sheriffs Operation Center???
    I never cease to be amazed!!!!!

  21. Hammock Bear says:

    Perhaps this entire drama should be decided by the Voters. The Pavillion has been a popular county rental for all to enjoy. Capt.’s would be better at another location. More parking and a full liquor license would bring them the financial success at another location. A1A Flagler County does have many commercial properties for sale. Bings Landing is not suited for a larger restaurant and bait shop. The rent has been a Freebie by the taxpayers. Get this settled and let the local Realtors find Capt.s and new place to call, Home.

  22. Ankharan Aelfana says:

    This is exactly why the public should never be on the hook for private businesses expenses. No way shape or form. It’s a scam. Venomous words with honey sweetener to disguise the poison.

  23. Concerned Citizen says:

    Flagler Beach has a few restaurants that are for sale and they could go straight there, make a few modifications and no down time.

  24. Trailer Bob says:

    I am really getting sick of hearing about Bings Landing and my taxes going to another business while I have to support my own business. No free or below market rents for land until you lower my taxes…lol

  25. Concerned Citizen says:

    We absolutley can and should hold ALL of our county staff and BOCC responsible.

    In this day and age of whistle blowing there is absolutly no reason why someone should not have stepped in and done the right thing. Even if it’s costly, your job as a County employee or member of the BOCC is to do the right thing and protect the citizens of this county.

    And I’m curious as to why Cameron is starting to act wishy washy. Was the inspection done properly this time or not. As Yoda said Do or do not. There is no try. You either found the building sound with minor repairs or itisn’t By the looks of the opictures it was pretty thorough.Did Cameron reicieve some sort of compensation from Captains? They seem to not mind throwing money around.

    At this point the thing to do is get Captain’s out of there. Cut your losses that you created accepting bribes and giving a sweetheart deal. Captains has more issues than building problems. From shoddy food handling and multiple health dept violations to having a sex offender on staff and bribing county officials the list goes on. Make that building a county facility. Whether it’s for the SO and a Marine unit or whatever. it’s time to stop showing favors to special interests.

    Our county is in desperate need of a forensic audit and a federal investigation for corruption. We keep giving passes to our BOCC and county staff and NOTHING changes. Why do we keep letting them off the hook when they waste MILLIONS of OUR dollars? Why is this acceptable? I don’t fear them and neither should you. Make THEM ACCOUNTABLE for the wanton loss that this county has suffered.

    If we aren’t going to hold our BOCC and other’s responsible legally we can vote them out. We have elections coming up not far down the road. I fully intend to do my part to see that none of these crooks in suits gets reelected.

    @ Captains

    I’ve said it before and will say it again. You’re pretty stupid to sue your benifactors. And you’ve used up any good will you might have had in this community. Of course I guess I would sue too if my bribes oops I meant “campaign contributions” didn’t get the results I had desired.

    Might be time to cut YOUR losses and move on. Instead of making it worse. You think your invincibile but word of mouth and boycotts are powerful marketing tools.

  26. It’s time says:

    The county needs to be held accountable for using ESL funds to purchase Bings and then turn it into a business deal as they have. A deal that is costing us tax payers and allowing certain individuals to fill their pockets. The FBI needs to come to FLagler. I hope Mullins will make this happen!!

  27. oldtimer says:

    Why not have captains move to Bayne bbq in flagler Beach its empty, and alredy set up? I guess they wouldn’t get the same sweetheart deal but seems like the smart choice

  28. Amen says:

    Amen! How can we even begin to feel empathy for Captains when they sue the tax payer? I recommend a boycott of their establishment. Captains has taken the good, hard working people of Flagler County hostage.

  29. discernible says:

    We have one county staff person that has had their hands in every single bad deal; Plantation Bay, Bings, Sears, Bank, Sheriff’s Operation Center, Bus Inspections… When will she be held accountable?

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