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Call The Question! School Board Moves to Demolish Old ITT Building in “Awkward” Vote

| February 17, 2016

corporate one itt building palm coast

It’ll be gone by the end of March. (© FlaglerLive)

It got a little snippy at the end of the Flagler County School Board’s discussion on the demolition of its old Corporate One building on Palm Coast Parkway Tuesday evening—snippy and improper, as School Board member Sue Dickinson cut off debate by “calling the question,” as she (and she alone) has on various previous occasions, under the inaccurate assumption that she could do so under Robert’s Rules of Order.

Colleen Conklin, who chairs the meetings and should know the rules (she later said she does, but was contradicted by the board attorney), allowed the interruption, and Kristy Gavin, who could have enlightened Dickinson, told Conklin that Dickinson did not need a second to end debate. (Conklin today said she was not in agreement with the interpretation.) So the 3-2 vote was taken after just 15 minutes of discussion, and with both Conklin and board member Andy Dance clearly still wanting to discuss the matter.

The board approved a $165,000 contract for Bunnell’s Environmental Site Services to demolish the 54,000 square foot hulk by the end of March. (A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the vote as unanimous, rather than 3-2, with Conklin and Janet McDonald in opposition.) The nearly 40-year-old building has become a too-burdensome liability for the district. It’s not usable as a district property short of a $3 million investment. The district doesn’t need it. It can’t sell (the board tried). And demolishing the building raises the value of the property by $200,000, to $1.5 million. So the old iconic thing, once the symbol of ITT’s development of Palm Coast, and for years the central office of the district’s Adult Education division, will soon be gone.

It was never a good district investment. The board bought it in 2001 for $3.5 million in a sweetheart deal for the then-owner of St. Joe’s Plaza, Robert Szymanski, who realized a 218 percent profit while the district ended up with a debt whose last $395,000 it will be paying soon. The building has been unusable for almost three years, condemned because of its lack of safety. It’s been vandalized six times in the past year. The fire alarm was destroyed by vandals. The air conditioning unit was running until November, when it crashed.

Grounds are still maintained by district maintenance crews and lit by district power. With insurance, and despite its limited use, maintaining the structure last year cost $52,638, and for seven months this year so far, it’s cost $39,172. The district expects post-demolition maintenance costs—basically, lawn care—to be $2,500.

Gavin, the board attorney, gave the board a 10-minute history and analysis of the building up to the point when the board decided to declare it surplus property.

“The other options that were available though at that time were also to make the repairs to lease the building to outside sources, which was going to cost approximately $1.7 million,” Gavin said. “But of course the school district is not in the business of going ahead and being a landlord and having tenants under them. We actually are in the business of education. Therefore if we wanted to go ahead and renovate the building for the purpose of utilizing it for educational uses, it was going to cost us approximately $3.1 million or $3.05 million.”


A board member misuses a commonly misunderstood parliamentary maneuver to end debate.
 


Even if the district were to lease the building, an appraiser found that it could not easily be filled with tenants given the difficulty other commercial spaces such as Roma Court and City Market Place are having to fill their storefronts.

Then there’s what Gavin called “the unknown cost that we can’t really put a dollar amount on, and that is the liability of allowing this structure to continue to remain in its current condition. There is an exposure to the district should a storm come by which would tear the roof off, we would then have to repair that roof just in order to maintain that structure. There’s the continued exposure and cost as a result of vandalism. There’s also a continued exposure for us and a potential injury to our employees as they are monitoring this structure.”

Board member Janet McDonald asked several pointed and clarifying questions about the demolition, the insurance ($10,000 a year currently), the projected savings, whether raw land has to be insured (no), and the upkeep on the land and the Adult With Disabilities portables on the site. Since the demolition would start within the next month, the students with disabilities would remain on that property, but they’d be fenced off. The plan is for the program to be moved for the 2016-17 school year.

“Are we at a place where we can fund moving them, relocating them and setting them up adequately and doing the demolition and doing the swimming pool renovations or needed repairs, capital repairs for the summer?” McDonald asked, referring to renovations at the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club.

“When we approved the capital budget,” Superintendent Jacob Oliva said, “it included the moving of the Adult with Disabilities, it included the moving of custodial and maintenance out to the U.S. 1 facility. The capital budget did not include the resurfacing of the pool, but in our general maintenance allocation, we allocate $2.8 million total for projects that come up, like if a chiller plant goes down and needs a complete overhaul, sometimes there’s repairs we don’t anticipate, but we build in a pot of budget to make those repairs. So we actually have some rough estimates on the resurfacing of the pool. It’s going to be over $250,000, roughly, but we’re able to put that in this year’s capital budget.”

“Are we kicking off other priorities?” McDonald asked.

Oliva said the replacement of the air conditioning at Indian Trails Middle School had been planned this year, but was put off until next year “because of the way the budget allocation was working and the scope of the work.” In other words the delay doesn’t have anything to do with Corporate One or Adults With Disabilities, Oliva said.

McDonald was still asking a question about the timing of the demolition with the district’s finances, and Oliva was answering, when Dickinson jumped in: “Ms. Conklin, I’d like to call the question and see how the vote goes.”

“I did have one question, if I may,” Conklin said.

sue dickinson flagler county school board flaglerlive

Sue Dickinson (© FlaglerLive)

“I called the question, Ms. Conklin.”

“OK, the question has been called.” So Conklin called for the vote.

Dickinson was under the false impression—common among local elected officials, though she alone uses that maneuver regularly among all her colleagues out of the county’s five major government boards—that calling the question gives an individual board member unilateral power to end debate under Robert’s Rules of Order. It does not.

The “Official Robert’s Rules of Order” website addresses the issue directly: “It is a fairly common misconception that, after debate has continued for some time, if any member shouts out ‘Question!’ or ‘I call the question!’ debate must immediately cease and the chair must put the pending question to a vote. This is simply not the case. Any member who wishes to force an end to debate must first obtain the floor by being duly recognized to speak by the chair, and must then move the Previous Question. Such a motion must be seconded, and then adopted by a two-thirds vote, or by unanimous consent. It is not in order to interrupt a speaker with cries of ‘Question’ or ‘Call the Question,’ and even if no one is speaking, it is still necessary to seek recognition.”

None of that took place Tuesday evening, just 15 minutes into debating the matter (not including the 18 minutes or so Gavin and another school official spent outlining the history and options.)

“The thought of the day should have been patience,” Dance said wryly 35 minutes later, at the end of the meeting—when each board member gets to speak his or her mind. He was referring to the board’s practice of beginning each meeting with a board member offering a thought of the day. Tuesday had been Dance’s turn. He chose care and compassion.

This time, he wasn’t going to let Dickinson’s maneuver pass unmentioned.

Flagler County School Board Andy Dance (© FlaglerLive)

Andy Dance. (© FlaglerLive)

“As I went through just doing some research, the awkward closing to our conversation with the call the question, may need us—and correct me if I’m wrong, Ms. Gavin—but after doing a little of checking, one member just can’t call the question and stop” the discussion, Dance said. “It is a consensus from what I read.”

“It’s happened before with my friend,” Conklin said, laughing as she referred to Dickinson, who’s been on the board–as has Conklin–since 2000 (both had voted to buy Corporate One).

“It was apparent not everybody was done with their comments,” Dance said. “And the one good thing about that item is that it’s probably the longest deliberated action that the board has taken since I’ve been on the board. It’s been going on since the middle of 2013. The whole process of getting to where we are. But it was just a little awkward with people still having opinions. We’re not in a big hurry, there wasn’t a big agenda, there wasn’t any need, in my opinion.” (The entire meeting lasted less than two hours, ranking it as a relatively short one for the board.)

“The only thing I’ll say,” Dickinson said when her turn was up next, “is if we don’t want to follow Robert’s Rules then we just need to take it away and not have it be a part of our agreement that we agree upon every year at the beginning of the year. It’s not the first time I’ve called the question, and I promise you it won’t be the last.”

But if she does so again—and her colleagues allow her to do so—it’s Dickinson who’d be violating Robert’s Rules.

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17 Responses for “Call The Question! School Board Moves to Demolish Old ITT Building in “Awkward” Vote”

  1. Fredrick says:

    “We actually are in the business of education.”… what BS… then why is the district feeding other peoples kids at no charge everyday? What business is that of the education system?

  2. Sandra Sites says:

    Because, Frederick, there are hungry children attending school through no fault of their own. And, in my USA, hungry children should be fed. It’s not JUST the business of the education system, it is all of our business.

  3. Common Sense says:

    Because Conklin and Dickinson have been board members as long as they have (since 2000’s) and Attorney Gavin did not do her job, all should be dismissed or reprimanded. Dickinson is always so cocky, she needs to come down a notch for sure. In fact, she needs to be replaced next election….time for new board members. It is obvious that we are not getting our money’s worth from some of these elected officials. Does the School Board really need this building? Maybe they should consider selling it and stay in the green!

  4. Mark says:

    Well Sandra, maybe their parents should get a job.

  5. Roll on 2 says:

    They need to be reprimanded, that is for sure. Also, School Board elections need to be partisan once again.

  6. Kim says:

    It seems the whole issue stems back to the “sweetheart” deal. The developer gets rich, the county gets the debt. Stop playing ball with developers thinking it’s going to come out in your favor.

  7. Flatsflyer says:

    Just had a residential pool resurfaced for $3,700 including tile. It was a 15,000 gallon pool, let’s see someone extrapolate the cost of the Schools Systems estimate. $250,000 sounds a little high. Rough estimates, 65 pools like mine could be done for the money projected by the School Board to do one pool. I wonder how much graft and corruption is included in the School Board estimate?

  8. Fredrick says:

    Yes Sara it’s a shame that kids are hungry and as compassionate people we need to help. But it should not be part of the education system. When do you start making the parents of these children responsible? Not just for feeding their kids that they brought into this world but for their kids actions? You do not do that by unending handouts. These unending handouts and not holding people responsible for their own actions is why a lunatic like Trump will end up in the White House. This politically correct, constant hand holding, BS has got to stop. People are tired of it and obviously tired enough to put someone like Trump in charge.

    So if the education system is going to feed everyone’s kids and be a babysitter then why can’t the school rent out the building and try to make a profit, or perhaps the school could open it up as a shelter and feed the homeless and down trodden. What’s the difference?

  9. just me says:

    HMMM 1.5 million in value of the place some 3M in renovations/repairs. Sounds’ like the people of PC got the short end again as the City could have had a “new” city hall there for a lot less then the one it forced on us at a much higher $

  10. confidential says:

    When it comes to our taxes paying for government contracts gouging is the name of the game….as always the $$ streams under the bridge and we are forced to pay up and shut up. Rushing into approving 165,000 demolition is as bad as was for my school taxes when then School Board paid Szimanski the 3.5 millions for a building that can hardly be listed now at 1.5 million probably to some sweet deal already in place to let go now. So we loose 2 millions plus the 165,000 for demolition. and if they decide to approve a 1.5 million sale and not less for such a great location in the center of the city. Now this time as before we have here same old same old Sue Dickinson pushing the string of very costly school capital expenditures decisions like in past years when disastrous plans and faulty construction started the Matanzas Schools Project in the 90’s. Info should be in the schools capital projects archives.

  11. Woody says:

    Fredrick,it’s no different feeding adults with tax money to survive.But I don’t remember needing cell phones,eyeglass’s,house phone,as survival on the tax payers dime.All welfare,section8 should be TEMPORY not for life.

  12. scoff the cuff says:

    Our best at work, again on our dime.

  13. Lance says:

    The general contractor that qualifies Environmental Site Services Inc. to carry on demolition within the State of Florida has notified Environmental Site Services that they can no longer operate under his license.The contractor’s name is: Lance Carroll. His license # is: CGC1507499 and he has zero interest in demolishing the property outlined in this article.

    Sincerely,

    Lance Carroll

  14. Fredrick says:

    Woody.. It’s hiding welfare dollars in the education budget. It’s fraud. That’s the problem. Education dollars should go for education not feeding the poor. It’s humorous that the libs can’t just honest but they have to try to hide it and then try to quickly make it sound like the other side does not want to help the poor. It’s just that attitude that makes a jerk like Trump popular.

  15. PCer says:

    Hey Frederick, kids who are hungry can’t learn. Breakfast and lunch is served daily to make sure that kids are not focused on their growling belly. Go study some basic psychology. Look up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. All schools follow the first five tiers to get kids to the point of learning.

  16. Sherry says:

    OK. . . this article is about what to do with a “building”, and about “Robert’s Rules of Order”. YET, somehow there are those that always figure out a way to bring the discussion around to a place where they can yet again and again BASH the hell out of those who are struggling and dealing 24/7 with the massive inequality and injustice in our culture, society and body politic.

    How very easy it is for bigoted cowards to constantly “blame the victims”, and, in this case, even say that we should deny food to children. Especially, when every “educated/caring” person knows full well that it is impossible for a child to learn anything when their belly is aching in hunger.

    The most astounding thing to me, however, is that I have noticed that these same people are often completely silent when the story is about making sure that things like EQUAL education, EQUAL job opportunities, EQUAL justice and contraception are widely and very easily accessible to ALL.

    There is a cancerous insanity that creates the wide spread belief that people of color are somehow inferior to the white race, and therefore they somehow create and “deserve” their own struggles. That they should just “lift themselves up by their boot straps”. OK. . . those so called boot straps are things like:

    1. EQUAL EDUCATION
    2. EQUAL JOB OPPORTUNITIES
    3. EQUAL JUSTICE

    Yet, those who often comment disparagingly here against everything to do with people of color are very highly resistant to our society lending an ear or a helping hand in creating those boot straps.

    The most outrageous thing to me is that those who just love to “blame the disadvantaged victims” have absolutely NOTHING to say about the complete graft and corruption and waste of tax payer’s money by our horrific political leaders. . . as laid out in excellent article like this. . . . take a read and notice the lack of comments:
    https://flaglerlive.com/88820/enterprise-florida-bill-johnson/

    What. . . you couldn’t figure out how to blame this on the poor, too?

  17. confidential says:

    Thank you Lance for clarifying.
    There is a lot to be made clear once more in these capital school projects deals in Flagler County and like Sherry says stop blaming the poor for maladies of our nations financial debacle and give credit to the undercover sweet capital projects deals lined with gratuities. Why the school attorney refers to this building as intrinsically being her own? Belongs to the taxpayers that footed the bill, madam esquire.
    The problem is that most of the school board members have been re-elected too many times and the same two that approved the shameful purchase of the Corporate One at 3.5 millions are the ones pressing the buttons to give it away now for 1.5 or less…plus 165,000 in demo …cause is just our tax dollars and they get paid to do it as BOD, Dance wholly bashes the building and Oliva pushes the Superintendent wagon. Good old boys and girls network. Oh boy we need a board change but will be able to overcome the FC voters idiocy ?

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