The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has been on the hunt for bigger and better spaces for its operation for years. On Friday, the office opened its newest Palm Coast precinct, at City Market Place, a two-storefront space that’ll add new life to the struggling shopping center in the heart of town, and a few doors down from the Palm Coast city offices.
The arrangement at Suite C-107 doubles to 2,600 square feet the precinct’s former–and less accessible or visible–space on Old Kings Road, north of the Staples shopping center, at half the cost: the sheriff will be paying $2,000 a month to City Market Place (not to the city), maintenance fees included. The sheriff also got four months’ free rent through July. It’s a three-year lease, paralleling Sheriff Jim Manfre’s term.
The precinct’s addition to City Market Place (originally known as City Walk which, ironically, had been marketed in its earliest days by Cornelia Manfre, a commercial real estate broker) will presumably increase traffic in the shopping center, benefiting the businesses there and creating more of a government center.
But Manfre said the better and bigger location does not diminish the sheriff’s office’s need to move from its current headquarters at the edge of Bunnell on Justice Lane, and stop paying $100,000 a year–the figure Manfre cited–for rentals around the county for space it cannot accommodate on Justice Lane. The new precinct, Manfre said, “does not provide us enough of a pressure valve to reduce our needs for additional space.”
County government earlier this week signed an option to buy the old 60,000 square foot Florida Memorial hospital in Bunnell, for $1.23 million, with the sheriff in mind. That deal, like the building itself, is not in the best shape, and only got three of the county commission’s five votes. But politics and questionable numbers aside, the site itself would resolve the sheriff’s space needs–as would the old Flagler County Courthouse annex, also an option for the sheriff.
The Palm Coast precinct would not be affected either way: it will remain where it is, or follow the city down the road should the city move its offices, Manfre said.
That’s not about to happen. The city signed a three-year lease on its City Market Place offices last spring, at $17,000 a month through last month, and $19,000 a month for a year, then $20,000 a month in the third year of the deal.
Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts, who participated in Friday’s ribbon-cutting, was asked whether the city might move. “I don’t see that happening any time soon,” Netts said, citing the difficulty of getting at least 51 percent of the electorate to approve a referendum financing a new city hall. A new location could be found, he said, but the difficulties of moving would have to be weighed against the benefits of a move, if any. “I think we’re here for the foreseeable future.”
The city was instrumental in bringing the sheriff to City Market Place, a factor Manfre recognized–citing City Manager Jim Landon–in his brief remarks at the ribbon-cutting. City Market Place gave the sheriff a $2,500 credit in tenant improvements, but it was city employees who refurbished the place, building walls, ceilings, offices and electrical and computer accommodations, for a combined cost Manfre estimated at around $25,000, which the city did not bill.
“Anything I say to thank them for the effort is understated for what they did,” Manfre said of city crews and the city administration.
In addition to the mayor, three Palm Coast City Council members (Jason DeLorenzo, Bill McGuire and Bill Lewis) were present, along with County Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin and commission member George Hanns. So were the sheriff’s office’s top officers, including Mark Carman, whose office–in the very back of the building, with its own back door–anchors the precinct’s operations.
Also present were many members of the city’s COP program (the volunteers also known as the Citizen’s Observer Program) who will staff the precinct Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and maintain their headquarters there, under the direction of Sonia Byrne. For the public, the value of the precinct–aside from the visible police presence–means that people seeking records (police records, crash reports) can seek them out at the precinct, where a full-time records clerk will be posted. The sheriff’s Traffic and Motors Unit will also be located here.
“Hopefully it will make it more convenient for Palm Coast residents to be serviced by the Sheriff’s Office,” Manfre said.