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Sold: County Commission Votes 4-1 To Buy $1.23 Million Hospital in Bunnell for Sheriff

| August 1, 2013

The Flagler County Commission is moving away from acquiring the old hospital in Bunnell, and toward the old courthouse, as the favored option for the sheriff's new headquarters. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Commission approved buying the old Memorial hospital in Bunnell, which it intends to transform into a new sheriff’s headquarters, and a gateway to more economic activity. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Commission at 5:30 this afternoon agreed in a historic 4-1 vote to buy the old Memorial hospital in Bunnell and convert much of it into the Sheriff’s Office’s next headquarters, even though the estimated cost of that option–$6.6 million—is almost $1 million higher than the commission’s previous idea: to move the sheriff into the old courthouse. (See a chart of the options’ cost breakdowns below.)

The 2013 Files:

The Documents:

County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen was the lone dissenter.

Commissioners endorsed buying the hospital for $1.23 million from a local consortium after a pair of meetings that stretched over four and a half hours and featured extensive presentations outlining, among other things, seven options where the county could move the sheriff. County Administrator Craig Coffey made clear that he favored the old hospital for several reasons: it’s a one-story building. It’s expandable, ensuring a viable location for several decades. It’s centrally located in an area of Bunnell that would benefit from it economically and from a community policing standpoint (the building is at the edge of South Bunnell, where crime is concentrated). And the sheriff would not have to share the facility with Bunnell’s city government, as the sheriff would were headquarters moved into the old courthouse.

The decision ends nearly four years of wrangling between the county, the sheriff’s office and Bunnell over where, when and how to move the sheriff’s office. It also means that the old courthouse will most likely belong entirely to Bunnell.

About 18 people addressed the commission, some of them in each of the two meetngs, most of them lending their support for the hospital option, for reasons that generally paralleled Coffey’s. Even Armando Martinez, the Bunnell City Manager, carefully spoke of his support for the hospital option—not to kick the sheriff out of a prospective joint use of the old courthouse with Bunnell, but to spur an economic revival in Bunnell’s core downtown district. Mayor Catherine Robinson echoed the same notion, but said the city would be supportive of a move either into the hospital or the courthouse annex.

Lea Stokes, the former Flagler County Chamber of Commerce chairwoman, said the loss in tax revenue—by moving the hospital from private to public hands—would be negligible.

The hospital option has been controversial from the moment it was made public: the $1.23 million cost is three times its assessed value, and twice its just market value, according to the property appraiser’s latest figures. The buildings is also, its shell aside, worthless, with significant repairs to its structural integrity and its roof and some environmental clean-up necessary. The building is owned by three men, two of them locally prominent—and politically influential—men: Michael Chiumento, the veteran attorney, and Bruce Page, the banker.

A majority of commissioners have dismissed any notion that they were treating the sellers—whose names have never been mentioned in any of the several public meetings the commission has held on the matter since May—any differently than they would have had the sellers been less known, or prominent.

Still, the hospital option drew opposition from a minority of the 18-odd people who addressed the commission, among them two former county commissioners—Alan Peterson and Hutch King. Peterson

“You need to give the public more information as to the sheriff’s wish list, what he can live with and what he can live without,” Peterson said. “You front-loaded it to make the hospital the best and only choice.”

King criticized commissioners for either not doing their homework or for being ready to make  “profiteers” of the hospital’s owners.

Nate McLaughlin (© FlaglerLive)

Nate McLaughlin (© FlaglerLive)

County Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin addressed the allegation head-on. “I will not sit back and have the integrity of this board questioned and disparaged randomly without any evidence to that whatsoever,” he said. “These are good people. These guys have worked hard. We’ve had a number of workshops.” Who an owner is or whether they make a profit or loss is not as material as how the property work within the county’s plans now and into the future, he said.

Sheriff Jim Manfre, who’s been careful not to endorse one option over another, nevertheless had earlier assured the commission that a one-level building was his preference, which had the same effect as an endorsement.

“We’re really down to the last leg right now, where is the best place for the public to have a sheriff’s office,” Manfre said. “We’re scattered in too many locations. Any organization works best when it’s centrally located.” He said the future argues for the hospital location, and brings operations closer to the community (though the annex would achieve that goal equally, and remain at the edge of South Bunnell).

“It’s not the cheapest but it’s the best overall value,” Coffey had said of the hospital building.

The annex offers more square footage, good parking (236 parking spaces), good location downtown, no environmental issues, no property purchasing issues, and there’s redevelopment and community policing in the area. But the building is not easily expandable to 50,000 square feet. It’s multi-story, which creates some operational issues for the sheriff. There is no vehicle impoundment area, and no secure area, outside the building, for sheriff’s needs, as the sheriff’s office has now on Justice Lane. Sharing the building with the city of Bunnell may not always work out. “Tensions tend to arise,” Coffey said.

Still, the courthouse annex offers the lowest-cost option, at $5.7 million.

The administration also considered tearing down the old jail on State Road 100 and building a two-story, 25,000 square foot building, with capacity to double that in the future. But the option has fewer parking spaces and a longer list of limitations for sheriff’s operations, not to mention a more expensive cost: $6.53 million. The administration considered building on the campus of the Government Services Building, but three such options would make it an even tighter fit—limited parking, environmental issues, limited expansion capabilities, and a $6.3 to $7.2 million cost.

Tacking the sheriff’s office to the existing Emergency Operations Center also would not work well, in the administration’s analysis, as it would displace existing staff and have its own limitations, and cost $7 million. Coffey expressly recommended against that option.

And he brought back the discussion to the long-term values of the old hospital.

“When I came into this meeting the hospital location was not number 1 on my list. Since what I’ve heard, I think the location is number 1, but I’m not yet convinced of the cost of retrofitting that building will be near the costs that have been estimated here, and that’s what I’m concerned about.” He said the reconstruction price will not stay anywhere near the $6 million advertised range. “To me, it’s a knock-down site,” he said.

“What we’re seeing here’d better be reality,” County Commissioner Frank Meeker said, warning against the plan being “pie in the sky.” If it is–if costs begin to mount in the future–Meeker said it will affect his trust of the county staff and the way he votes on all matters in the future.

Cost Comparisons: The Seven Options As Presented By The County in 2013

Courthouse AnnexOld JailOld HospitalOld Hospital if Demolished and RebuiltGSB South of the EOC BuildingGSB South of Circular RoadGSB East Courthouse Wing
Property Purchase Cost (*)NoneNone$1,230,000$1,230,000NoneNoneNone
Building Construction$4,000,0004,555,0003,535,0004,555,0004,555,0004,555,0005,980,000
Site Work$400,000$500,000$300,000$300,000$500,000$500,000$100,000
Architect, Permits etc.$250,000$400,000$400,000$400,000$400,000$400,000$400,000
Demolition CostsNone$350,000None$700,000$25,000NoneNone
Brick Facade Work$100,000NoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Structural Upgrades (**)$300,000None$450,000NoneNoneNoneNone
Transportation Impact Fees (***)None$15,000NoneNone$25,000$25,000$25,000
Water and Sewer Impact FeesNone$10,000NoneNone$25,000$25,000$25,000
Wetland and Floodplain MitigationNone$50,000NoneNone$100,000$300,000None
(*) The county administration in its calculations had put old hospital purchase costs in the non-demolition column at $750,000, rather than $1.23 million, by "prorating" the purchase cost according to the percentage of the space the sheriff would use (35,000 square feet out of 56,800 square feet). But that's a misleading calculation, as the county would have to buy the building for its agreed-upon price regardless of the space the sheriff uses. By going with the smaller figure, the administration was able to make the purchase of the old hospital look like the second-lowest choice. In fact, it's the third-most expensive option.
(**)Bringing structures to 141 mph windload.
(***) Scheduled to be back in effect in Oct. 2014.
Source: Flagler County Administration.


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33 Responses for “Sold: County Commission Votes 4-1 To Buy $1.23 Million Hospital in Bunnell for Sheriff”

  1. Common Sense says:

    Shame on them. Chiumento wins, the taxpayers lose.

    Let’s remember who voted for this next time we vote.

    Wait until the real costs start coming out.


  2. Truth of the matter says:

    Great job Charlie you recognize a money pit when you see one, unlike your fellow commissioners. Hell, they even placed themselves in jeopardy just walking through that rat nest. But then again somebody out there is celebrating the sale.

  3. Dr. Know says:

    I sure would not want to be an officer that has to sit in that place. The years of heat and humidity have more then likely caused bacteria and really NASTY old hospital infectious diseases to grow deep into the walls and ceiling. There’s NO WAY to clean that place out professionally and guarantee a safe environment .

  4. Anonymous says:

    Peterson and King need to again serve as County Commissioners!

  5. downinthelab says:

    Nice to see the good old boy system is alive and well. Let’s get that new city hall built in Palm Coast next…

  6. Girl says:

    I have a question, who is the broker of record for this DEAL… same one as the City Walk Deal????

  7. Shocked, I tell you... says:

    Isn’t Chuimento the one pushing for the new City Hall? What else does he own here that he’s trying to sell us?

    With all due respect, Commissioner McLaughlin, you’re going to have a tough time convincing anybody there isn’t something going on here. Your constituents don’t appear to have a lot of confidence in you.

    Thanks to those who showed up to speak out.

  8. rthomp11 says:

    OMG are these cost inflated! They can’t really think that buying a piece of land and then redoing a building that is as bad off as the old hospital is can cost less than building a new building on land already owned buy the county can they?? How stupid do they think the voters of Flagler County are? Come the next election they will find out!

  9. Pennies says:

    Math is wrong in the Old Hospital line…add another $10,000.00…pennies!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Where can sense be bought for cents?

  11. Marissa says:

    Pick up your asbestos mask at the front desk before entering at your own risk.

  12. RHWeir says:

    I don’t care about the old hospital. Just get the 14 year old punks off the street. If they need a broke down hospital to do it, give it to them.

  13. Raul Troche says:

    Just sounds awfully strange that while other properties in this are dropped around 45%, the neglected old rotting hospital doubled. Also it is about time to do something with the old courthouse. Plans should have begun on what to do with it before the new one was built. Same holds true for the old jail. I have done free work on that building. If neglected it will end up full of mold like the hospital. Our county officials should take better care of what properties the taxpayers have bought. Manage them wisely. I doubt you would let your own invesrtments just sit their rotting. Don’t just say it is OK well just raise more taxes. You shouldn’t ask for more if you don’t know how to properly handle what you have already. Oh and what’s that foul odor? That’s it the Coffey.

  14. Joe says:

    Elections have consequences, remember this at the booth!!!

  15. Doesn't anyone CARE? says:

    Here goes the taxes…Not a good move at all…This is going to cost us BIG…

    We know the only ones that made out in this deal..

    Can’t wait till voting time arrives….Get the dead weight OUT!

  16. confidential says:

    Meanwhile they are proposing to raise the mill in our taxes! These four need to be all voted out!

  17. PJ says:

    Did any of you commentators even go to the public meetings on this? Likely not so you make comments on being misinformed.

    Charlie Ericksen is a Tea partyist so his vote should be a no as that is what they do.

    This move takes another vacant property off the vacant list and continues to build but the local community.

    The Sheriff was going to move somewhere at a similar or higher cost. Consolidation is their answer to cost savings.

    All people do is complain. Listen to your elected officials and when you don’t like what they are doing go the meetings and voice your opinion.

    FlaglerLive is a good starting point to say something but you should be better informed because is not going to check your information as facts but they will post your comment if your not vulgar and make a farly reasonable point of view.

    Wakeup citizens and get informed before you vote out politicians who are on your side…..PJ

    • FlaglerLive says:

      PJ, before making false statements about this website you might want to fact-check your own. Four examples just from the one above: First, Ericksen is not a “tea party” guy anymore than he is a Democrat. That he has attended meetings of both organizations doesn’t make him a member of either. Second, the hospital option is, in fact, one of the more expensive options, and certainly more expensive than the old courthouse. So your statement is demonstrably false. Third, we do, to the extent possible, fact-check comments for accuracy. You don’t see the thousands of comments that are held back. We deal in garbage too in this section, as you do elsewhere. So you can understand what we must wade through, though we also try hard to make a distinction between opinion and fact. Fourth, not even you have attended most meetings, and had you done so you’d have shirked your responsibility as the taxpayer-salaried public employee of another local government with a vested interest in the county’s hospital decision. It would be nice to get fuller disclosures from you from time to time. So yes: let’s all get better informed, starting with those making baseless claims from behind convenient masks.

  18. Jan Reeger says:

    This is absolutely the best choice for so many reasons. I am pleased four Commissioners were able to see that.

  19. Charles Gardner says:

    I have read both appraisal reports. Both are creditable given the scope of the assignment as defined by the client. One must understand the definitions and use of hypothetical condition and general assumptions and limiting conditions. Hypothetical condition is defined, in part, by the Appraisal Institute as a “condition that is contrary to what exist but is supposed for the purpose of analysis’. The appraisers should not be faulted for bad decisions by the Flagler County Commission. Both appraisers discuss regional and area economic conditions. Neither appraiser specifically addresses economic or real estate market conditions within the city limits Bunnell. Real estate activity within the city of Bunnell has always been slow even in good economic times. Both appraisers have used comparable sales in Volusia County. I have done the same for all appraisals of improved property that I have completed in Bunnell. This is almost always necessary when appraising property in Bunnell. The appraisals are fine. The scope of assignment as defined by the county may not be.
    Don’t blame the owners of the property. The purpose of investing in real estate is to make a profit by resale or development.
    Don’t blame the real estate broker that brought the parties together. A brokers duty is to consummate a sale at the highest price possible

    • rthomp11 says:

      Mr. Gardner, as an accredited appraiser and a long time resident of Bunnell yourself, also having read over both appraisals…in your opinion, what would you have suggested the Board of County Commissioners have paid for the hospital?

      • Charles Gardner says:

        I can’t comment on that without making a full appraisal which I would not care to do no matter how high the fee.

    • Shocked, I tell you... says:

      All good points, Mr. Gardiner. However, standards must be higher when public funds are involved. This decision was a done deal before that commission meeting.

      That’s not good government.

      • Charles Gardner says:

        Exactly. The county defined the appraisal problem. The appraisers didn’t do anything unlawful or unethical. The county should have had the appraisals made “as is”.

  20. Anonymous says:

    The old outhouse has been an expense since 2007. Hasn’t it been about a million dollars that has been pissed away maintaining this building the past 6 years?

  21. confidential says:

    What a shame!! We have the old historical building of the old Court House rotting away in Moody Blvd Rte100, prime location, not being maintained and BOCC go and waste 1.23 million in another unrealistically overpriced rotting away contaminated structure while proposing to raise our taxes? What about calling the Feds (FBI) to investigate these County and City dealings here like was done in Broward and other counties not long ago?

  22. Ray Thorne says:

    ”The county administration in its calculations had put old hospital purchase costs in the non-demolition column at $750,000, rather than $1.23 million, by “prorating” the purchase cost according to the percentage of the space the sheriff would use (35,000 square feet out of 56,800 square feet). But that’s a misleading calculation, as the county would have to buy the building for its agreed-upon price regardless of the space the sheriff uses. By going with the smaller figure, the administration was able to make the purchase of the old hospital look like the second-lowest choice. In fact, it’s the third-most expensive option.”

    Everyone should pay attention to this quote from Flaglerlive. Thanks for bringing this attempt by the commission to try and mislead the public to your reader’s attention.

  23. BW says:

    Very very bad decision and totally unjustifiable. Good for Mr. Erickson for having common sense and the guts to stand up.

    Sheriff Manfre was obviously a bad decision in November, and I personally think this should be his only term.

  24. Ron says:

    I know who I will be NOT voting for at the next election.

    Clean house!

  25. Ron says:

    And where are these policial whores going to come up with $7 million (which will quickly escalate to $16++ million, I guarantee).

    Folks, better hold onto your shorts because the big, BIG spenders are at work in Flagler County.

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