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Palm Coast Council Sniffs at Gang of Six Push for New City Hall, Opting for Rental Analysis

| July 9, 2013

Aged appraisals aside, City Market Place is not quite the ugliest place to have a city hall. (© FlaglerLive)

Aged appraisals aside, City Market Place is not quite the ugliest place to have a city hall. (© FlaglerLive)

When Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts asked his fellow-council members this afternoon what their thoughts were about a new city hall, he got an emphatic “No” from Bill McGuire.

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It didn’t get much better after that, other than a deflection of the question to City Manager Jim Landon, who’s in charge of bringing back an analysis of where the city stands with its rental options and how best to move from here. There may be fainter interest in a citizens’ task force, but that idea lacks definition and may end up looking more like a way to politically deflect a damaging issue from the council onto a committee rather than a sincere attempt at calibrating the size and place of a cornerstone.

The council itself is clearly split, 3-2, with that majority (including Netts) opposed to a new city hall, especially absent a referendum on the question. McGuire led the way.

“We’ve got a staff that works for Mr. Landon that’s capable of doing this a lot better than some old people like me that get together over coffee,” McGuire said. He was referring to a proposal—by six former council members that the current council make moving into a new city hall a priority again, starting with the appointment of a “blue ribbon committee” to study the matter for the council.

McGuire’s remark about age elicited a few groans from his fellow council members, who are not much younger than the Gang of Six. (The Gang’s combined age of 461 years predates the Mayflower Compact by 68 years.) But he went on.

“It seems to me that if there were something to be said for a blue ribbon commission there would have been something forthcoming last week more than just platitudes,” McGuire said. “You know, OK here’s—the only suggestion that I heard that was attractive to me was Alan Peterson suggested putting it back on the five-year strategy. I have no problem with that. But the timing is not right. I mean, if we found a place today, if Jason came in with a buyer that would give us the deal of the century, we don’t have any money. So I think the possibilities are there. I think the potential is there.

Bill McGuire. (© FlaglerLive) palm coast city council

Bill McGuire. (© FlaglerLive)

“As far as I’m concerned unless someone from the private sector came to us and said I’ve got an idea that I want you to consider, it’s just not the right time to do it, your honor. Would it be nice to have a city hall? Sure. I do not agree with the idea that having an ostentatious building is going to attract business and industry. How is that working out for the county? I’m finding it real hard to work up enthusiasm for doing it at this time. Is it a good idea, sure. It’s a great idea. But this is the wrong time to do it. We just raised utility rates. We’re in the middle of putting together a budget, and to go out and start fishing for a new city hall at this time is just the wrong thing at the wrong time.”

There was a brief silence before council member Bill Lewis tried an objection. Lewis had had a difficult council day already (Tuesday’s meeting had aged enough for Stilton by the time the city hall matter was taken up in early afternoon). The city manager had earlier politely made mincemeat of Lewis’s complaints about people not parking their garbage cans properly, or Lewis’s suggestion that the city should charge a fee for use of its Business Assistance Center, while McGuire had batted down Lewis’s hopes of increasing spending on cultural grants. But Lewis tried again to disagree.

“Why I don’t agree,” Lewis said, “because it’s been 10, 13 years that we’ve heard that argument, and I think it’s about time we get some new arguments for a city hall. I think the idea of those distinguished gentleman and woman coming forward to express their concern, because they’ve have been struggling with this before this council, they know the mistakes that they made and they know the fact that the longer you wait the less the chance you will have people who have those kinds of civic concerns where a town hall it may be symbolic of something of the past but it’s still something that represents the character of the city.”

Lewis then went on to insult every town and unincorporated area beyond Palm Coast’s city limits with precisely the sort of language that, in previous years, has drawn the ire and resentment of localities that are not Palm Coast.

“This city is really is Flagler County,” Lewis said of Palm Coast. “If it wasn’t for this city, Flagler County would still be a little county, or a dot on the map. But this city has made Flagler County. I think it’s just a town hall or a city hall is representative of where it’s been or where it’s going. Those people who came forth the other night, I think they understand that. But they’re dying off and pretty soon those types of people will not be around.”

Alan Peterson, at 74 the second-youngest member of the Gang of Six, was in the audience, and some of the council members apologized to him with funereal laughter.

Lewis, who does not laugh easily, said the city should be listening to the former council members. The best suggestion he’s heard? Let a private concern build the thing, and have a lease-purchase agreement.

But the city cannot do that without a referendum. And a referendum would most likely not pass.

David Ferguson. (© FlaglerLive)

David Ferguson. (© FlaglerLive)

Council member David Ferguson wants to see an economic analysis that would show what type and what size of building would fit a city this size (an analysis that was partly done by City Manager Jim Landon’s administration in 2010, when Landon presented the concept of a $10 million, scaled down city hall. But even that plan was roundly shot down at the time). Absent that analysis, Ferguson said, “the timing is still not a good time for the city to take the initiative to want to do that just because former council members think it’s a good idea.”

Landon reminded the council of the numbers, the options, the analyses that have been conducted, and that can be brought back to the council’s attention in fresher detail.

Meanwhile, the city has not seen its rental costs increase. To the contrary. Its roughly $20,000-a-month costs for the current city hall location have declined in the last three-year lease. “Before we commit to re-up the lease, I think we need to at least explore the other options,” Mayor Jon Netts said.

Landon asked whether the Gang of Six’s idea of including citizens’ input in formulating options is part of what the council wants to do. But even that idea got no serious takers.

“At this point we’re doing a fiscal analysis,” Netts said. “We’re not doing an aesthetic analysis, we’re not doing an economic development analysis, we’re not saying we’re an economic development driver or we’re not.”

“We’re building a mathematical model,” McGuire said.

“Exactly. Just show me what costs versus costs are,” Netts said.” Then we can have the philosophical discussions of are we an economic driver, do people think less of us because we’re in a rented storefront. Those are philosophical questions, but without the numbers—and understanding that nobody, and I’ve had any number of people approach me with ideas as how we might proceed, nobody has shown me a viable option other than the referendum.”

“Same here,” McGuire said.”

Netts also wants to know what the city’s options are with the three land parcels it’s sitting on in Town Center.

“I’m in favor of this task force,” DeLorenzo said, referring to Lewis’s reflections, “but if we’re to go down that road I think we need to provide them with some guidance, we need to give them a mission.” For example, understanding the pros and cons of the current facility, of having a new facility, “the rent-versus-own economics part of it.” And, he concluded, the most important thing would be how to fund it.

McGuire gave DeLorenzo a brief refresher: “As you’ll remember Jason, when you and I ran for this office, everywhere we went, and everywhere we spoke, of there was one recurring theme that we heard from the people, is where do you stand on building a new city hall. This is, like I said last week. Red-light camera people are either cold or hot about them, but I haven’t met anybody that we start talking about taxing the voter populace to build a new city hall, they’re ready to lynch you. They’re getting a rope.”

He concluded with this: “For a city that’s only 13 years old, not to have a city hall is not Armageddon. Places that I came from, cities were 25, 30 years old before they could afford to build a city hall. When the city I lived in incorporated we held our meetings in a firehouse maintenance building for at least 15 years.”

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15 Responses for “Palm Coast Council Sniffs at Gang of Six Push for New City Hall, Opting for Rental Analysis”

  1. Magnolia says:

    Shame on the lot of you, especially the Mayor and the Manager. You have no business even discussing this among yourselves right now. A recall of this council is looking better and better.

    Think we can’t do it? Think again…

  2. confidential says:

    Lets live and function within our means…meaning the current and most of the resident tax payers financial status and not just the fewer, the elites.
    If we could apply our current city rent cost, adding the other rented units income to buy the whole City Market Place were our city administration rents now…that could be a great investment that will pay in just few years for itself. Once the value of that building is up to par with the cost of a new city hall…then sell it and build a new one. No burden to the tax payers right now, neither then.
    Sorry but we had enough force funding the County Taj Mahal’s in Rte 100.

  3. Magnolia says:

    Thank you, Councilman McGuire. I cannot BELIEVE they have the nerve to bring this up again, any of them. Not as long as the City is in the red. The arrogance of our elected officials is beyond belief.

  4. Miah Mahoney says:

    Mr. Lewis, Flagler County did just fine for the 82 years prior to Palm Coast incorporating and seemed to do a fairly good job in providing Palm Coast with the services it needed for its first 25-plus years of existance. Just because Palm Coast represents a large portion of the county does not mean it “is” Flagler county.

  5. Tired says:

    How much has Landon already spent on the design plans for the city hall that didn’t get built? More than 10 staff peoples salaries. He is the master at these dog and pony shows, lots of experience. He will get what he wants eventually, and it’s not what the voting public has stated.

  6. Marissa says:

    You ever see an individual with a few teeth missing when they speak. You think, why don’t they just just replace those missing teeth with caps, partials or implants. Then you realize they can’t afford those procedures and do without, missing teeth and all.

    Well, that’s what this City Hall issue reminds me of. They want the taxpayers to do cosmetic surgery with their current location so they can relocate to a brand spanking new facelift that will be more aesthetic and attract business.

    The City doesn’t know how good they have it. When the economy improves and the City has reserves of cash maybe then they can build a new City Hall just like the individual who has no money must wait until they can have their teeth fixed.

  7. Brian says:

    I do believe Mr. McGuire is the only one that realizes that these “FORMER MEMBERS” are exactly that pretty much based on this ideology of Palm Coast needing a new city hall. Any member of this council that shows to be in favor of this ridiculous brain fart of an idea just might as well kiss their political career in Palm Coast goodbye! This city is so far in the red that Donald Trump could not bail it out! I am just surprised that these morons have not suggested building a new stadium somewhere to attract it’s own professional sports team! The last time I was asked where I was from by someone not from this area, they had no idea where Palm Coast was! A new city hall building is not going to change that one bit! People do not give two craps about Palm Coast because people are fleeing this miserable no-job town faster than a group of kids chasing an ice cream truck in August!

    If you buffoons wish to have a new city hall…….why don’t you start actually governing this town according to the wishes of those who elected you, and not according to the wishes of your friends in the construction and real estate industries…..or according to the wishes of those who were voted out of office for the same reason! Get the city back into the black, get utility rates and property taxes back down to a reasonable rate, find some way to attract better paying jobs to this area…..and then MAYBE you might find support for a new city hall. Until then, and until you can remove your heads from your back sides, do what everyone else in this city and county are doing……..LIVE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, and be happy! Just because I would like a new pickup does not mean I am going to run down to Tom Gibbs or Flagler Ford and spend $20,000 that I do not have just to look cool. Until I can actually afford to pay for a new truck, I will keep driving my old reliable – always breaking down chevy with 250,000 miles on it. It runs, it gets me where I need to be, and the repairs on it are in my price range!

    Just something for this council and anyone who supports them to chew on.

    • Magnolia says:

      Standing ovation for you, Brian. Want to run for the council? These people need to be replaced.

      • Brian says:

        I would have to decline that invitation to run for the Council. My political views would not “jive” with the majority of the voters in Palm Coast anyways. However if I was to run, my platform would be somewhat offensive to some and extremely offensive to others.

        Besides, until this city is actually proven to be a desirable place to raise a family, I cannot see remaining here much longer……. let alone running for local government. My family is much too important to me.

  8. Joe says:

    Where are all the PCD jobs? We tav payers are waisting our money on rent because of the bad deal you all made with PCD!!! Get the building back and renovate, its much cheaper!

  9. BW says:

    Bill’s remark was totally out of line and he owes a public apology to everyone of those former Council Members. Age does not mean “out of touch”. Likewise, youth does not mean “gets it”. Age and the experience those six have is advice that should be respected and listened to. That was definitely not the thing to say, and I just lost a lot of respect for Bill.

  10. ken says:

    Why is the age of these people an issue? Harping on their age is as offensive as if the author was harping on their race or religion.

  11. confidential says:

    Maybe the age issue was brought up not as a derogatory, as I understood, but as an extension of the six to rush a city hall before, as we all will one day, leave this earth. Maybe is the six idea of the city of Palm Coast complete then only after the CH built and inaugurated and probably bearing all their names from nice frame pictures hanged from its walls. Just like in the county Taj Mahal…I wholly agree that now is still NOT the time yet.
    I would suggest to the six instead to propose the renaming of our “Palm Coast Linear Park” in honor of former councilman Jerry Full that battled so bravely to keep our precious walkway by the Intracoastal front open to us residents, between Palm Coast Resort all the way to Water Front Park!`Without his environmental and community well being fight since the early times working for ICDC (ITT), we would not be enjoying it today! So far this no costly dedication request seem to fall in deaf ears as far is concern our current council. They never did it when Mr. Full was alive and looks like still being ignored after his passing last March. Maybe they are saving the naming dedication for themselves? Even the preservation of Long’s Creek was initiated by former city councilman Mr. Jerry Full.
    The Education Foundation and local Audubon, arts and heritage organizations were promoted and supported by him as well while he was among us. Lets give credit to those who earned it!

    • Will says:

      Nice thought, Confidential, to remember former ITT VP and City Councilman Jerry Full for his work to save and preserve our environment. Maybe there will be a way to do that soon.

  12. Edith Campins says:

    Really? A new city hall?

    “The city’s golf and tennis centers continue to run in the red: the city golf course, budgeted to break even this year, will be $50,000 in the red, while the tennis center, budgeted to run a $100,000 deficit, is actually short $125,000”

    And on and on it goes

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