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Other People’s Money: How Flagler County Is Closing on a Raw Deal at Taxpayers’ Expense

| May 3, 2013

The administrator will see you now. (© FlaglerLive)

The administrator will see you now. (© FlaglerLive)

The old Memorial Hospital Flagler has been looking for a user or a buyer for almost 11 years, ever since it closed. It got one in 2006 when its current owners–who hold the property under the corporate name of Flagler Crossroads–bought the property for $750,000, just as the real estate market was preparing to tank. It did. And the property sat on the market, decaying and depreciating year after year.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive On April 25, James Newslow, who owns a construction company in Ormond Beach and is one of the three owners of the old property, signed an option agreement with Craig Coffey, the Flagler County administrator. Under the terms of the agreement, the county would buy the property’s 60,000-square-foot buildings and surrounding 7 acres for $1.23 million, yielding the Flagler Crossroads owners a 64 percent profit on their original buying price.

For any investor anywhere in Florida, let alone Flagler County, it is an unheard of bonanza despite a real estate collapse where the wreckage of the last six years is only now beginning to clear. It’s taking place in a town–Bunnell–where the degraded hospital building has been a mirror to the local economic activity: One of Bunnell’s few (and largest) businesses to open its doors in the last few years is the Family Dollar on State Road 100, not far from the hospital, the ultra-low-cost variety store whose prosperity is proportional to its surrounding poverty.

Bunnell is not a place people  are dying to be in, so much as dying in. The old hospital property has itself been a lifeless hulk. It was on the market for $1.75 million, but it was not likely to find a buyer at that price any time soon–and if it were, its sellers (who include Intracoastal Bank President Bruce Page and Palm Coast lawyer Mike Chiumento) would not have turned to the county to unload it.

But that’s exactly what they’re doing. Or, to be more precise, that’s  what the county is enabling them to do. And to do so without appraising the property. To do so with an inexplicable gun-to-the-head deadline imposed on county commissioners to sign an option agreement on May 6, this coming Monday, the very same day when they would have gotten their first look at the building in a hurried little pro forma tour of the thing, without any additional data except the memo and background material County Administrator Craig Coffey prepared for them (see the full package below).

Our five county commissioners don’t look like sheep. They don’t seem to mind being treated like sheep. But it’s not nearly as offensive as what it says of commissioners’ respect for taxpayers’ interests. Then they wonder why government has such a crummy reputation.

I’m saying this as one of government’s biggest fans. I don’t buy into the vilification of government, the juvenile and demonstrably false complaints of high taxes, the equally demonstrable myth that the private sector always does better than government. But here the tables are reversed. It’s government that’s about to act in its own self-interest, as if it were unaccountable to taxpayers, and to the immense profit of private-sector investors who just happen to be among the best politically connected individuals in the county.

The trio clearly made a bad deal in 2006. They’re not alone. Innumerable people in Flagler County can relate. But you could probably count on less than a full hand the number of people in Flagler County who made bad deals but got bailed out by government money, coming out ahead, way ahead, during the Great Recession.

Three groups immediately come to mind, and all three got their deal thanks to the Flagler County Commission: the bankrupt Bobby Ginn who sold the county almost 1,000 acres of unbuildable land around Pellicer Flats for $3.5 million, or seven times its market value; Mori Hosseini, who just sold the county the decrepit and valueless Plantation Bay utility for almost $6 million; and now the Flagler Crossroads trio that’s about to make history by getting discharged from a lousy hospital with a fat check.

Let me clear: I don’t begrudge the trio for doing what they must to get the best price for their property. They’re in business to make money. More power to them. But the county is not in business to accommodate businessmen. It’s in business to provide the best quality services it can while looking out for the interest of taxpayers. That’s not what it’s doing here, especially in the hurried, entirely unjustified manner in which it’s doing it.

I should also note that I have nothing against Craig Coffey, the county administrator, whose shrewdness and love of deal-making is certainly one of the county’s best and most depreciation-proof assets. But in big deal after big deal, he appears to be susceptible to local government’s version of Stockholm Syndrome—identifying more with sellers than with taxpayers.

This, I think, is what has happened here, despite the very best intentions and aims. And there’s plenty of both. But at what price?

Craig Coffey. (© FlaglerLive)

Acquiring the old hospital property is a great idea. Its location is excellent. Bringing the sheriff’s headquarters to the heart of Bunnell instead of the boonies it occupies now will be great for Bunnell and its businesses, and will finally bring some life to that dead zone, which happens to neighbor the black ghetto politely known as South Bunnell. Blacks there don’t need more harassment from police. They get plenty of that already, down to 24-hour police surveillance cameras rigged up just for their neighborhood.  But in a roundabout way a more economically vibrant neighborhood may give South Bunnell a better chance of breathing easier.

The possibility of housing several social services in the old hospital, maybe including Bunnell’s free clinic, is also attractive, though don’t raise your hopes. Commissioners and the administrations are dangling those ideas as bait for the deal, to temporarily placate what doubting public may squeak, not as a financially doable thing in the next couple of years.

That brings us back to the deal’s not-so fine print: it’s full of qualifiers designed not to caution commissioners, as it should be, but to do the reverse: to give them ammunition to fight the PR battle against anticipated criticism. Example: the Flagler Crossroads trio didn’t really buy the property for $750,000, as it says in the property appraiser’s records, but supposedly for $1.65 million when purchase of stock and “assumption and payoff of existing shareholder debt” is included, according to numbers provided—weirdly—by the real estate broker in the deal.

Well, this isn’t about what stock they had to buy and what debt they had to assume when they made their bad deal. That’s their business. It’s about the price they paid for the property. And the price they paid for the property was $750,000, because it wasn’t worth more than that. Just as an unimproved property that sat vacant, losing value through the recession, isn’t worth more than that today, if it’s worth anything at all. The convenient $1.65 million figure is being thrown in there to make the $1.23 million figure look like a steal. It’s manipulative and patronizing. Don’t fall for it, though commissioners very well may.

Commissioners are being told that buying and renovating the building will cost $5 million, “similar in cost to the other projects that have been evaluated,” such as the renovation of the old courthouse annex that the county considered for a sheriff’s HQ.

First off, that’s not true. Last July, a county administration document listed annex renovation costs line by line and totaled them at $3.86 million, not $5 million. And that was for 36,000 square feet.

Second, the $5 million renovation cost attached to the old hospital is to refurbish only 28,000 square feet of the property’s 60,000 square feet: More money for less space. If those other social service agencies are to move in, it’ll cost—at the $100 per square foot the administration is currently estimating—over $3 million more, assuming construction costs don’t rise. So acquiring the building is actually an $8 million proposition, at least. The longer the county waits to refurbish the rest of the building, the more expensive it’ll get. And this time it won’t have anyone to unload it on.

Third, even the costs the administrator is estimating are lowballing the matter. By his own account, when the county first inspected the old hospital in 2002, when it was considering its acquisition, it found “a structural joist issue” and “asbestos in a few locations.” Both would translate to big additional costs that aren’t included in the $5 million estimate. “Since then,” the administrator’s memo states, “most of the asbestos has been removed by the owner.” Most? I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of either the residue or the bill to remove it. But I will be, as we all will, when the bill comes due—to the county.

Fourth, there’s this remarkable line in the administrator’s memo to commissioners: “The county administrator has completed a cursory inspection of the premises and believes the buildings and property are in fair condition.” Thus spoke Zarathustra. Let’s write a check.

Most astonishingly, the agreement has the county acquiring the building “as is.” So not only is the consortium unloading the property at a handsome profit. It’s dumping its problems in taxpayers’ laps too. Sure, the county has 60 to 120 days to conduct its “due diligence.” But if that due diligence over the next few weeks is anything like the 50 shades of grime that have led to this purchase agreement, we’re in trouble as taxpayers, and so are the future occupants of that building, if and when it is renovated.

Again, this has nothing to do with the Flagler Crossroads sellers. They’re doing what they have to. May the force be with them. It doesn’t even have much to do with Craig Coffey. He’s doing what county and city managers love to do. He’s making deals, throwing them up against the commission’s walls, and watching for what sticks. You can’t begrudge his energy and imagination, or his resourcefulness. He can makes a great case for the acquisition, and there’s always that disclaimer he throws in on commissioners’ behalf: “They can walk away for any reason.”

But that’s more flattery than reality. The reality is that this county commission goes where its top executive tells it to go. And it’s all about this county commission, and what it’s willing to do with other people’s money.

When I interviewed all five commissioners on this deal last week, before FlaglerLive made it public, they all knew about it, and all but one wondered how it was that I was asking them about it. In one form or another, they asked if the county had issued a press release, worried that they’d be fingered as the one who let the cat out of the bag. (The exception was Barbara Revels, who, to her credit, answers questions the moment she’s asked, without playing games. Ironically, she is Bruce Page’s closest friend on the commission.)

Rest easy, commissioners, none of you leaked this. No one did. The more salient question is: why didn’t you? Not to me, but to the public, in an open meeting, before Monday’s derby follies? Why the cat-and-mouse game? Why did every single one of you commissioners know about this for at least 10 days and possibly weeks—anyway long enough to have had the chance to discuss it at a previous commission meeting—but the public didn’t? Why the posting of the deal on the county’s website only on May 1, a week after it was signed? And why this absurd May 6 deadline, at 5 p.m., the day of your first and only (public) meeting on the matter, to sign the agreement?

That’s a defining part of the problem. In the end, the impression you’re projecting, even if it’s not your intention, is that you’re all in on it too, the deal-making, the negotiating behind the scenes, the being-in-the-know among yourselves until the whole matter is more formally revealed for public consumption. But by then the deal is done, as it very much is in this case. You’re just going through the motions. And you know that for the most part you might weather a bad meeting or two, a few acerbic comments here and there, but nothing more.

Because in the end it’s not even on you. It’s on the public, on its indifference—that indifference on which you rely so much, even as you pretend to want more public involvement. But you’ve just shown how contemptuous you are of that involvement in the last couple of weeks, on arguably one of the most consequential and most expensive deals of the last few years. You’re faced with that absurd May 6 deadline because that’s what some of you have agreed to in your private meetings with the administrator. That’s how you want it. That’s how you’ve been coached to ensure that the deal makes it through with the least friction and public exposure possible. The shrewdness is all yours.

But then don’t complain when you hear constituents disparaging the way you go about representing them. You reap what you sow. On this deal, with this deadline, with this fine print, you sowed contempt and mistrust of the only people who matter in the equation: taxpayers. They’ll return the favor handsomely. And you’ll have buried government’s reputation a little deeper.

No deal is ever worth that long-term cost, which the rest of us will still be paying long after you’ve left office.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here.

County Administrator Craig Cofffey’s background memo, the option agreement and other background material on the proposed hospital sale: material made public on May 1 ahead of the May 6 meeting.

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52 Responses for “Other People’s Money: How Flagler County Is Closing on a Raw Deal at Taxpayers’ Expense”

  1. Kip Durocher says:

    It is time for the citizens of Flagler County to demand an investigation, led by state and federal authorities, an investigative body needs to be impaneled now. Nothing in any of this looks right and all of this smells something awful.
    The scope of this investigation should include the Bobby Ginn bail out, the purchase of the Volusia sewer from Hosseini and this current attempt to push this wrecked pandora’ s broken box down the tax payer’s throat. This building may quite well need to be condemned and torn down. Or “refurbished” to the tune of 10+ million dollars when all is said and done.
    All current county commissioners, to include their public actions in office and private financial real estate and development affairs and businessess, the county manager, all his staff and all those involved private individuals who in any way have financial interests revolving around these three tax dollar issues and any financial dealings amongst these principal individuals going back several years should be given a hard clear look over.
    “The county administrator has completed a cursory inspection of the premises and believes the buildings and property are in fair condition.”
    Would the county administrator spend over $1,000,000.00 of his own money on real estate with just a “cursory inspection” ??? Several of the commissioners are in land development and real estate. Would a “cursory inspection” satisfy their dollars? Is “fair condition” what Flagler tax payers get for their money?
    How about an out of county building inspection service and land appraisal business give us a complete inspection.

    A good start would be a state investigative body with subpoena powers and the legal authority to file civil and criminal charges as need be. Even if the commission pushes this old derelict of a building on the taxpayers they can still be held legally responsible and the deals undone.
    The citizens of Flagler County deserve honest, decent actions and decisions by their elected officials, not obfuscation, chicanery and trickery. To try and put this third smelly fish over on the citizens after foisting the first two with zero citizen input is to insult the voters yet again.

    Where are our normally vociferous Tea Party members at on this one?
    Democrats and Republicans ~ you need to pack this meeting on Monday, May 6th.
    Let your elected officials know what you think of the “old buddy system.”

    • Magnolia says:

      Your “normally vociferous Tea Party members” are under the leadership of someone who runs in the same circles as these men. It is not recognized in Florida as a real Tea Party. There are no elections for the board, etc.

      In this case, it should not matter what party you are affiliated with. Fraud and it is killing this county.

  2. Jim Neuenfeldt says:

    If it wasn’t a good deal in 2002, then it is less likely to be a good deal now!
    I doubt the seller is in that big of a rush other than to hamper due dilligence. If they have another buyer then maybe Flagler would be better off to pass on the building and keep it on the tax roles?

  3. Dumb Down says:

    The last line says it all, “No deal is ever worth that long-term cost, which the rest of us will still be paying long after you’ve left office.”

    The tax payers and voters get turned off by the likes of Coffey, Valentine, and Conklin demanding your purse strings each and every time they pursue their own agenda. This is crazy. Why no public meetings and the big rush with OUR money, not that it would make a difference anyway, since they only browbeat and double down your concerns at meetings.

    Is it me or what that I find these people we elected are out on a limb doing there own thing. We should demand an outcry at Coffey’s actions, even further, demand a recall. This guy Coffey is making back room deals and midnight decision making when the taxpayer is sleeping.

    This deal stings and Oh! did you mention asbestos? I’d never enter that building.

  4. Wasting our tax dollars...again says:

    Without an appraisal a buy should never occur. Our board of county commissioners should be ashamed to allow Craig Coffey to wheel and deal with our tax dollars allowing land to be purchased for more than it is worth. This was all a calculated plan and is rush, rush before too much is found out, and too many people oppose. Every one of these commissioners need to be thrown out of office and take Coffey with them. Why didn’t the county put the Sheriff Operations in the old courthouse? Coffey is trying to dump the old courthouse on the city because he let it fall apart the past 6 years, when he should have had a plan for it before it was ever vacated; and he knows the city of Bunnell can’t afford it. Millions have been spent on letting the old courthouse sit vacant….more waste of our money.

  5. m&m says:

    When is the county going to end this spending insanity? A week ago they said they had to raise taxes because of an 8 million dollar shortfall.. Are these people nuts??

  6. Magnolia says:

    It is time for the feds to take a good look at these lands deals in Flagler, and possibly at our elected officials and Coffey as well. It doesn’t take a 4 year old to know something is WRONG here. Pay off after pay off and ALL at the expense of the taxpayers.

    It’s called Corruption. And if you pay close attention, you will begin to see that it is the same people involved in each of these “deals”.

    Contemptuous politicians? It’s gone WAAAAY beyond that.

  7. kmedley says:

    You ask “why” the commissioners did not “leak” this to the public. The answer is simple; because they can and they know that “We the People” have become, for the most part, a group of under informed voters who will not remember deeds such as these by the time the next election rolls around. Get ready for another Special Election seeking another tax increase from the County to cover the added costs outlined in this article and other purchases that should have been postponed and/or abandoned.

  8. Dawg says:

    Would love to see the “appraisal” this purchase price is based on. No bank in the world would finance this transaction but the taxpayers are suppose to. Seriously? This same group originally purchased the property back in 2003. Then transferred to themselves in 2006. Glad the “asking” price wasn’t $10 million. No telling what the county would have paid.

  9. JL says:

    Thanks for a well written and informative column. I think we should all be asking our county officials, Why are you trying to sneak this one in? It is a waste of taxpayers money. We don’t need it. And clearly you guys need to hire someone who knows and understands the value of real estate. If that were your personal money, would you spend that much on this property? Site unseen? Give us a break. You people really do think your constituents are ignorant.
    Buy the property at that cost, and I WILL vote you out your next election. I will remember this. I DO have a long memory. So don’t assume this voter is plagued with Alzheimers and will forget all about it. I WON’T.
    I hope everyone decides to write to our council members telling them to VETO this purchase!!!

    Thanks Pierre!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this a breach of Florida sunshine laws? I thought you could not talk about this kind of stuff behind closed doors. Someone needs to report and investigate these idiots. Their power has once again gone to their heads.. Remove them from office next election or sooner!

  11. John Boy says:

    Things to watch for:

    County Officials driving new cars
    County Officials taking expensive vacations
    County Officials with new golf clubs
    County Officials with new houses

    Is it possible someone could very well be benefiting from this oondoggle other than the current owners??

  12. Stevie says:

    In 2006 the dollar held 50% more intrinsic value than it does now. No one gains, everyone loses.

    This rip off is going to happen over and over again just like it has all over the State. No one will stop it because they don’t feel enough pain yet.

  13. Ogreagain says:

    We can’t afford to fund are schools? and this is how the county spends the money. I hope you guys are getting a nice kick back over this deal

  14. r&r says:

    Can you say “DIRTY POLITICS”???

  15. Palm Coast Resident says:

    The people need to know what really goes on in the county. Thanks for another great story.

    • Magnolia says:

      Palm Coast Resident: Won’t help in the least unless the people show up at the meeting. This is what happens when nobody wants to vote because they think it doesn’t matter.

      If you leave a fox alone in the hen house, he’ll eat all the chickens.

  16. confidential says:

    Feds FBI should be called not on this deal only, but in the ones we were forced to fund before!
    Like that Hoiseini decrepit utility, the deals with Ginn and “Cakes Across our Pockets” and all past and present Commissioners and past and present County Managers should be incriminated to testify.
    Flagler County is supposedly financially broke and Manager and Commissioners are demanding to raise our taxes and at the same time, they are buying fraudulently overpriced real estate from their developers buddies/friends/associates and acquaintances? Shameful!

  17. here is how u start says:

    Every elected official and board appointee is supposed to file with the Supervisor of Elections (City officials, 2) a financial disclosure form. The press does not seem to publish them as much here as elsewhere, but it is a matter of public record. Pierre did the digging when McLaughlin ran for County Commission. I don’t recall anything on Meeker beibg published. As the supervisor for their forms. It is a start.

  18. tulip says:

    The fox is running the hen house and all the chickens are falling in line.

  19. nyy says:

    When is Coffeys contact up? Time to go!

    • Magnolia says:

      nyy: don’t know when his contract is up but I believe I read an article awhile back on Flaglerlive stating that it was renewed automatically, without discussion or a vote. Seemed odd at the time.

      Did I get that right, Flaglerlive?

  20. Think About it says:

    Simply do the math…We need to keep oit sinple so the county commissioners can comprehend this…

    Building sells for $100
    Estimated value: $25

    Lets buy it for $300 and then spend another $400 to fix it up to code… Sounds like a plan, huh?

    How stupid can they be?

  21. fla native says:

    This deal has corruption written all over it.

  22. Edith Campins says:

    Is this the same Mr. Coffey that is quoted on an April 24th article as telling the commissioners we have a budget shortall if the area of 3.3 million from last year and anticipates the same for 2014?

    Aren’t the reserves dangerously low? Isn’t the total estimated gap around $8.3 million?

    Is this the same county commission and the same Mr. Coffey?

    I am not a politician or a highly paid county administration so I am sure I am missing something that would make this proposed purchase perfectly reasonable. Even if refubishing cost are and additional $5 million for this property.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said Mrs Campins. I normally discard anything and everything that Mr Tristam writes because he is so left of everything that I believe in but this time, he appears to have gotten most of it right.

  23. Jan Reeger says:

    While I also may be unhappy about past decisions of past Commissions, that is not relevant here. I am commenting only on this particular transaction after reading the Agenda Item #4 synopsis.
    I am also saddened by accusations of wrong doing. It is unfortunate our current opinion of “politicians” is so despicably low. I certainly understand and frequently share that opinion. But it does not necessarily apply here.
    Government in the Sunshine does not allow Commissioners to meet and discuss government business with each other behind closed doors. However, Managers may and should meet with each Commissioner individually to discuss government matters. The Manager may gather ideas from each Commissioner but may not share the opinions of the other Commissioners. That would explain why each Commissioner had knowledge of the proposal. They had no reason to blab about it knowing that it would be properly placed on the public agenda with the back up documents and information.
    After carefully considering all the numbers and all the other factors relating to it, I am still in support of this transaction. I see it as being far less expensive and far more practical than other alternatives to satisfy our County needs.

    • Voter says:

      We let you know what we thought of what you think when you ran for county commission, and got your butt whipped in 2008. You are in real estate, and have ties to current county commissioners who are also involved in real estate-those like Barbara Revels and Nate McLaughlin. Do you drink the kool aid too?

    • Will says:

      Thank you, Ms. Reeger, for your rational remarks.

      It’s possible to disagree with procedures or decisions made by commissioners and staff without alleging that they’re doing something improper or illegal. We have good Commissioners – and the public’s opportunity is to get involved to help them make good decisions.

    • Doug says:

      Jan Reeger I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt. But when they appear to be doing this quietly, unannounced,and with a decison to purchase this over priced property in lean times by May 6 and the deal is accidentally discovered 5 days before a vote something is not right. If this is legit It certainly is not proper to puchase in this fashion and it makes for bad PR.

      It starting to warm up in Flagler . Maybe it’s time to move where ther snakes in the grass!

  24. Diego Miller says:

    Mr. Coffey is the Dick Chaney of Flagler. He came from Hernando County guns blazing. Cooked up a nice package with Joe Mayer in HR, layed off all the union workers, and is living the good life at the tax payers expense. The Flagler County Commissioners continue to do what they want with no regard for the citizenry. The Sunshine law! are you kidding me?

  25. Brad says:

    Hey…Federal government is CORRUPT. So Flagler County government is following in their footsteps. Rich get richer and the poor get the SHAFT !!!!! I’m so damn sick of all these politicians and city officials. The BS goes from one group to the next group to the next. Everybody gets a piece of the money pie as long as the follow the corrupted leader…..Time to end it in our Federal government and time to end it in our local government !

  26. Magnolia says:

    Jan Reeger:

    There are many living in the county who have needs and are going without. It is time our politicians do the same. And if you don’t want to see accusations like these, stop making local developers rich at the expense of these people.

    If we don’t have it, don’t spend it.

  27. Frank J. Meeker says:

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is the small counties sales tax that will fund the payback for this project should it go through not ad velorum taxes. The small county sales tax was the sales tax acted on by the previous commission (Hanns, Holland, McLaughlin, Peterson and Revels) which replaced the 1/2 cent infrastructure sur tax which expired. That all happened before my time on the commission by a couple of months. Should this project, and it would have been this way for any of the Sheriff’s Operation Center options such as the annex rehab, or the tearing down of the old jail and the construction of a new Ops Center there be approved, it is not being paid back out of the general fund. A portion of the small counties sales tax would be pledge to pay off the debt over the balance of the loan, not the general fund.

    The general fund is used to fund the governmental needs for fire/EMS, the sheriff’s office, the remaining constitutionals, other smaller scale capital projects and regular governmental costs for supplying services. It is derived from the assessed value of your property (as determined by the property appriaser) mulitplied by the miilage rate (determined by the commission) which yields the total dollars needed to fund local government. Like I said, this isn’t that pot of money.

    On another topic, Jon Boy had a qualification test for corruption up above. You got me, I am guilty of having replaced my Nissan Armada with almost 200K miles on it with a new Ford Edge (but keeping my money local at Palm Coast Ford), however I haven’t had a vacation in years let alone an expensive one, my golf clubs are at least eight or ten years old (used only when I can scrape some spare cash to go misplace my 60 cent golf balls into other people’s back yards) and my house is 28 years old so by Jon Boy’s definition, I may be safe.

    Now why wouldn’t a bank, any bank in the world finance this deal? Because banks are not in the business of supplying services that by state charter, local governments are mandated to supply. Further, local governments wouldn’t deal with a normal bank for projects such as this because their rates are higher than we can get using other sources (hence saving tax payer dollars on the full payback). It is the responsibility of local government to fund a sheriff and meet reasonable needs of that office. Same with the Clerk, Property Appriaser, Supervisor of Elections and Tax Collector. The county is also mandated to provide other services and pay for unfunded mandates decreed by Tallahassee. Years ago, Tallahassee reserved for themselves sales tax funding for most State functions, and pushed the use of property taxes down to the counties for their use in funding local government operations. That’s just the way it is. If you think there is waste remaining in the county budget, any of the commissioners would gladly sit down with you and the budget book to see what else should be cut. And if you want to do it with me at the table, I’ll drag the manager and our head financial guru to the table as well. Question away for as long as you would like and answers would either be immediate, or notes would be taken and a response given just as soon as the additional research could be completed. Just send me an email and I’ll set it up. At this point in my review of the budget (and I have not yet reviewed it all), I’ve identified about 1/2 million in things I’d like to cut, but I’m one vote out of five. I have some other consolidation issues to bring up as well, but that’s another discussion.

    As for Plantation Bay, I don’t think this is a worthless deal at all. In the short term, it will provide a safe and reliable source of drinking water to those within the service district, and in the long term, will provide a barrier to others trying to take away water resources that rightfully should be staying within the county. One last point on that one,…I don’t know how many times it gets pointed out, but the cost of the Plantation Bay purchase is to be paid back by the users located within the Plantation Bay utility service area. Not the residents of Palm Coast, not the residents of Bunnell, not the residents of the Hammock, Hammock Dunes, Cinnamon Beach, Marineland, Beverly Beach, Flagler Beach or the rest of the unincoroprated areas of Flagler County. Just those served by that utility.

    My discussions with Craig Coffee on the purchase and conversion of the old hospital probably amounted to five minutes or less three or four weeks ago. There were no specifics on any deal, no lock downs on any cost to purchse, no estimates on the cost to hehab other than a broad statement of basically, “I think we could have the total costs be less than or equal to what we were looking at for the annex and we can consolidate other county services into that location”. Less than or equal too is a good thing. Consolidation of services is a good thing. Managers are empowered to go out and “do”. Often, they poll commissioners individual opinions without passing those opinions around to other commissioners. The full details become available to us at the same time it becomes available to anybody from the public who want’s to go online and read it. I’m reading it all today. It’s a simple as that.

    I hope this helps, and Jan Reager,….thanks for trying to bring this discussion back to earh.

    Frank J. Meeker, District 2
    Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

    • Slick as snot says:

      Why is all of this moving so quickly, and why not an appraisal? Don’t you think this should have been publicly discussed before Coffey moved forward? Why would Coffey be given some direction by the board? Does Coffey work for the board, or do you work for him? You commissioners need to get the county administrator under control, and you need to lead him, not let him lead you.

  28. Bob Hamby says:

    Why the rush to vote on this with the commissioners only getting information this week? Is Flagler County Government operating on Pelosi rules “pass it so we can see what’s in it?” Coffey seems to be directing commission action rather than what it should be with Coffey taking his direction from the Commission..

    Public will have even less time to figure out what is going on than did the Commissioners having no time to present any intelligible input. We would not have even known about this except for Flagler Live. This is no way to run a railroad or a government.

  29. Edith Campins says:

    Dear Mr. Meeker:

    While I appreciate your effort to providing additional information on this subject, you fail to address some critical points.

    Why are even considering paying more for this property than it is worth?

    Since the current owners only paid $750,000 and property values are down why would the taxpayers have to assume any of their other costs or “..shareholder debt…”?

    What qualified entity or individual has provided an accurate estimate of the cost of refurbishing the property? What will it cost to deal with the asbestos problem? Is property appraising one of Mr. Coffey’s skills?

    Will the estimated $5 million plus for refurbishing also come from the Small Counties Sales Tax or the General Fund?

    Why the rush? Why not have open and public discussion on this before you agree to anything?

    And just two more points…

    The Small Counties Sales Tax money comes from the same source as all taxes, “We, the people…”. Just because it is not from property taxes doesn’t mean this pot of money comes from all of us. Pretending we shouldn’t be concerned because it doesn’t directly affect our property taxes is disingenous, a best. It is still OUR money.

    As for your comment on the recent purchase of the water utility, “…in the short term…” “ and reliable source of drinking water ” Really, I understood the facility hasn’t met the criteria for safe drinking water for some time and that it was going to take some millions to get it to function the way it should. And that we paid way more than it was worth.

    But hey, it is not my money, let those friends and neighbors in Plantantion Bay pay for it.

    Is it any wonder the citizens are distrustful of the commission?


    Edith Campins

  30. Frank J. Meeker says:

    Sick as snot: Some short answers. There is no reason it has to be rushed. I’ll probably ask for two weeks to allow our constituents to voice their opinions on this but again, I’m one of five. I need a second to the motion, and three votes.

    If the answer to why not give me two weeks has to do with the contract,…too bad. It’s been sitting there a while, it can sit a bit longer. If they have somebody offering a better deal, take it. But on the other hand, to delay just to delay is not what I’m about either.

    At some point the elected officials have to make a call as that is what we were elected to do. And contrary to some of the comments presented here, I’m sure there are some people in Bunnell who object to how their town has been characterized and might think this is a good thing not just for Bunnell, but for the County so I hope to hear if there are really two sides to this coin.

    As for why no appraisal, I don’t have any answer. It will come up as an issue at the workshop but the property appraisers website doesn’t help me much on this one. The just market value back in 2010 was over 1/2 million for the property and building. Same note in 2011. Just Market value is what it’s taxed at, not what it would sell for. For 2012, this is what I get:

    Land Value 353,951
    Ag Land Value 0
    Building Value 1
    Misc Value 0
    Just Value 353,952
    Assessed Value 353,952
    Exempt Value 0
    Taxable Value 353,952

    Building value 1 $???? Does that make any sense when it comes to determining what price to pay for the land and buildings? The finished floor area is over 56,000 s.f. That would be about 5.5 million or so to construct a building of equal size today. But whatever it’s worth, I’m sure there will be some discussion on this subject too.

    You asked if I think it “should have been publically discussed”? You make it sound as if the decision has already been made. Like all of our actions, it will be publically discussed at the workshop by the commissioners and staff, and then when the commission gets back together in a business meeting format, it will be discussed some more with public comment taken, just as it is for every other decision we make. Come to the meeting and the workshop, and speak your mind. If you don’t show, then don’t get upset when your opinion isn’t counted. The commission needs to hear what you have to say at that time, not here or on some blog somewhere.

    Why did Coffee forge ahead on this issue? I don’t need to be an apologetic here but the commission, as well as all of the candidates from the last election took a stand that we needed a new jail, and as part of that discussion, they recognized the need for a new operations center as well. Plus, it has been discussed for years, just not acted upon. In fact, I think this concept was discussed but rejected by another commission years ago,…maybe 11 or so. And I’m thinking there was a study done by Gabriel or Gibraltar and Associates back in say 2002. Who all remembers that was the firm hired to help out on the Matanzas High School construction. I’m not sure, but I don’t think they are no longer in business. Those of us who have been here for more than 7 years remember that high school construction project had problems on the second floor which shut down that project for months and necessitated major cost overruns. With that kind of record, I don’t know if I’d place too much emphasis on their report. In any event, direction from past commissions and stated positions by candidates would seem to me to be reason enough for the administrator to forge ahead with asking the question about should we do this or not, negotiating a price and bring it forward for consideration. You folks act like its already been voted on. Now, after we (and you who bother to show up) get all of the facts, maybe you and the commission might agree that this is a good thing. Maybe not. But just because the administrator brings something forward for our consideration doesn’t mean it’s already a done deal.

    I hope you will all show up to express your support or lack of support for the project but suggest we all base our opinion on the information presented at the hearing and on the printed material found on the commission website.

    Frank J. Meeker, District 2
    Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

  31. here is how u start says:

    Take out the words soccer and kids and we have another sweetheart deal in the city. Would you like to get 65 acres to build your dream on, just because you supposedly meet the city’s economic goals? What is missing in this is the public discussion of what we the public are foregoing now, how this deal weill drive future development and whether or not protocol was followed – why does one group have more influence on our park system than others? Was the Leisure Services Committee, the citizen appointed board asked for its input?
    The closure of the golf courses that ITT built will be more detrimental to the surrounding neighborhoods and the City has no plans to deal with that possibility. Back in the day it was golf, today its soccer. Let’s get government out of these businesses and back to basics.

  32. confidential says:

    Got Most that one correct Voter!! Most of of us here do not agree with you Jan and maybe because our incomes do not depend of real estate and specially tide to county deals.

  33. tulip says:

    I read that the 2012 just market value of the property is 353,999. I went to the website and looked it up, sure enough there it was. In 2011 the just market value was around 500,000. I realized that is only a market value, but paying over double the 2012 value is insane, especially with the horrid condition the property is in.

  34. Think About it says:

    TOO much BS is going on with this deal… Dirty hands will only get dirtier…

    Meeker, you even said land value 0

    Asbestos? YES it’s there …Just go back to it’s conceived days…Has to be on the BOOKS! Has anyone checked on the buildings inspections when it was built? Passed, not passed…or is this hitting a nerve?

  35. Magnolia says:

    The regular meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the commission chambers of the Government Services Building, 1769 E. Moody Blvd.

    The workshop is slated to begin at 11 a.m. in the Emergency Operations Center, located directly behind the Government Services Building, with a “working lunch” at 11:45 a.m. followed by a tour of the hospital.

    The special meeting will also be held at the Emergency Operations Center “following the workshop.”

  36. Frank Meeker says:

    To Edith Campine, Slick as snot and others with similar questions or concerns.

    I said up above I didn’t have an answer on the believed lack of an appraisal when I was trying to respond to you all well after midnight. But,…I’ve completed reading the full package now and it turns out an appraisal was included in the package found on the county website. It’s on page 64 and was prepared by Russsell Hamilton a state certified general real estate appraiser and was prepared for Robert Erickson, Sr. Credit Underwriter for Indepenedent Bankers Bank. It was done September 27th, 2012 so it’s reasonably current and was used for the banks purposes of underwriting a loan on the property. The appraisal concluded the property was worth 1.45 million dollars which is less than the proposed purchase price. Hey, this is part of a big package of almost 150 pages of information so I can understand how some might have missed it.

    Couple of quick answers:

    No I don’t think appraising property is one of Mr. Coffee’s skills.

    As I understand it the asbestos issue has already been addressed and removed.

    I don’t think refurbishing costs have been discussed yet as there is not plan layout for the interior yet as we haven’t given staff the go ahead to start looking at those things yet.

    We don’t have the financial picture locked in at this time reference the small county sales tax or general fund as we’re still shaking hands on the whole thing. Stay tuned on that one.

    As for the meeting tomorrow, the purpose of any action by the board in the morning is to allow staff to go out and due further due diligence on the site. It is not to purchase anything. I suspect the county commission would be at least three months away from having enough information to make any kind of decision. It already is an open and public meeting so I’m not sure what the concerns are on that issue. If I’ve missed something from your comments on that, please let me know.

    Yes, I understand that all money used by local government for anything comes from the tax payers. Known it for a while now. Been proposing cuts in government expenditures for a number of years based on the precept.


    The “Just Market Value” is not related to what a piece of property is worth (and that point is made very clear on the property appraiser’s website). As I mentioned above, it is a value used by the Property Appraiser for the purposes of levying the ad velorum tax. Nothing more. If you look at your own piece of property on the same website, tell me you would be willing to sell it for what the Just Market Value says. I know I wouldn’t sell mine for that kind of money.

    If anybody wants to talk the Plantation Bay purchase in more detail than I’m willing to type here on a day as gorgeous as this, give me a call. I’m in the book. We can meet and discuss at length.

    Frank J. Meeker, District 2
    Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

  37. Edith Campins says:

    Yes, I intend to be there and I hope many others will come too.

    Mr. Meeker, in typical politician speak, you didn’t answer my specific questions.

    Foe example, where will the money for refurbishing the property come from?

    If a new building would cost about $5 million, as you say, why would we spend over one million to buy the property and over $5 million to refurbish only part of it?

  38. Joe says:

    Good one Frank, ” (and you who bother to show up) ” thats what we voted you in for, to represent the people, its about what the people want, not just the ones who can make the meeting, paying over double what the property is worth is not what the people want!!!

  39. tulip says:

    I find it interesting that the appraiser as an underwriter for a bank. Hmmmm. Is it possible the appraisal was “leaning in the banks favor by “overestimating in order to protect the bankers, lawyer and const co, owner’s investment when it came to selling it? Just a thought.

  40. Frank Meeker says:


    What poiltician speak? I did answer that question. It was in my first response. It’s the small counties sales tax. The total budget we’re looking at for all options (annex, hospital, new building) is 5 million.

    Think about it’ Those aren’t my numbers “land value + 0” they came from the property appraisers website. Go take a look and you’ll see I just copied down numbers from there.

    Frank Meeker, District 2
    Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

  41. Ron Hubbard says:

    The corrupt payoff price of 1.2million is just a drop in the bucket. Wait till these callous self serving politicians and commissioners start asking for tens of millions of tax dollars to rebuild this worthless antiquated, asbestos contaminated, unuseable, hulk of a building.

    Yes, these maniac commissioners are in league with paying off the owners and YOU, the taxpayer are on the hook. These commissioners should be made lawfully responsible for this injustice and breach of public trust and fiduciary responsibility.

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