Modest amounts of asbestos were found in the building the county recently bought and is renovating into a Palm Coast substation for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. Additional, unexpected renovations will delay the building’s readiness.
A Sept. 13 report from Universal Engineering Sciences, the Jacksonville building inspection and environmental sciences county government hired to conduct testing in and around the building, concluded that chrystolite, non-friable asbestos was found in the black exterior window caulking of the 4,500 square-foot building that used to be a Wachovia Bank at 14 Palm Harbor Village Way, off Old Kings Road (across from the Staples shopping center).
The building is the property and responsibility of county government, which is also the landlord at the troubled Sheriff’s Operations Center, evacuated since June because of environmental risks it posed to more than two dozen sheriff’s employees. The employees complained of and exhibited several ailments associated with sick-building syndrome.
The county commission approved an $875,000 purchase of the old Wachovia Bank building in May so the sheriff could move the Palm Coast substation from City Marketplace, where the sheriff has been paying rent for five years, to a permanent base for that precinct. At the time, County Administrator Craig Coffey told the commission that renovation costs would total $100,000. He now expects renovation costs to top $300,000, including the cost of remediating the asbestos, though he said that portion of the work would amount to less than $1,000.
The deadline for completing the building’s renovation was Dec. 1, enabling the sheriff to move in at the end of his current lease at City Marketplace. That deadline will have to be pushed into the new year, with the sheriff going month-to-month on the lease from December forward.
“If we find a problem, we address the problem. If it’s not constructed right, we want to construct it right,” Coffey said, even if it’s more expensive upfront. The county manages 1.1 million square feet of space, including all the spaces for constitutional officers, 750,000 square feet of it climate-controlled.
The new substation was not inspected for asbestos before the county bought it.
“As part of every building we buy we do a phase I audit, the phase I audit is typically to research the history of the building and say, OK, this came up, and we might need to do what’s called a phase two which kind of investigates what comes up in phase I,” Coffey said. “We didn’t do asbestos because of the age of the building but then we went ahead and backed up and did asbestos.” The building was built in 1990, past the years when asbestos was commonly found in buildings. The reason the county went ahead with re-testing: “Just because of all the stuff we’re going through in the sheriff’s building, it’s like let’s check some more boxes, and that’s what we did,” Coffey said.
Universal conducted the testing on Sept. 10. No building plans and no other material information were provided regarding the building. “Four percent (4%) Chrysolite Asbestos was found in the black exterior window caulking. No asbestos was detected in any of the other samples obtained from the building,” Universal’s Lindsey Weaver, a licensed asbestos consultant, and Christopher Komatz, a Universal project manager, wrote the county’s Tim Telfer on Sept. 13 in a cover letter to a 22-page report (see below).
Ceiling tiles, wallboard and joint compound, floor tile and wall texture material were also tested. None indicated the presence of asbestos.
The Universal report notes there are “numerous federal and state statutes, regulations, and rules which govern the abatement and disposal of ACMs,” or asbestos-containing materials. National Emission Standard for Hazardous Airborne Pollutants regulations require notification to the landlord and removal of all regulated asbestos containing materials prior to renovation, so the county at that point did not have a choice but to go ahead with remediation. Even though some remediation is exempt from federal regulations, “such exemption does not extend to OSHA standards or other state and federal statutes,” the Universal report states.
“You still have asbestos today in some of your tar and roof flashings and stuff like that, and it’s not prohibited in some products from being used still,” Coffey said. “Asbestos is not the end all, be all–because you have it somewhere doesn’t mean you’re dying of cancer next week. For the most part it’s fine as long as it stays within a product.” It’s when it becomes friable or goes through other processes that it becomes toxic.
Once the asbestos was detected at the future sheriff’s substation, “We notified DEP, we had a conversation with them, everything is fine. It’s just if you take out the windows, you’ve got to remediate it then, very minor, probably will be under $1,000 to remediate the caulk. If you do an expose on it, it’s not the end of the world, it’s a normal building thing.”
The sheriff’s office was not told of the asbestos until last week, after FlaglerLive began making inquiries about the matter and as of this week the sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge had not received the asbestos report. He’d spoken with Coffey on Monday about the issue, and was satisfied with Coffey’s explanation. “I have asked now for routine updates of what’s going on” he said. “We want every building that we’re in to be safe. Every building can be made safe is what I’ve learned in this process.”
Initially the county was not going to replace the windows at the old bank building, but found that replacing them would work better with the design of the building. The county is also replacing the tile roof, which had active leaks. “We found some substandard construction, we’re ripping all that out, putting quality construction in,” Coffey said. The county has also applied for a state grant to “harden” the building.
Of the additional needed renovations, the administrator said: “It’s always something. No project ever goes perfect.”
Universal Engineering Sciences Asbestos Report (2018)
Dennis McDonald says
Prior to the closing of this property I went to the Commission meeting and asked them to BUILD NEW ! We should have built this Palm Coast sub station in the exact geographical center of Palm Coast just north of the library on Belle Terre where the county owns 18 acres. Easier access and the land cost was ZERO.
This building was a bank and banks are purpose built and do not easily convert to normal commercial space. This property was destined to over run as renovations ALWAYS exceed the budget on normal buildings ! Then add the bank factor along with Coffey and $300K is a warm up even with him hiding the costs of County workers supplementing the construction. How many times can your employee FAIL and not get terminated…amazing !
If you want different results in Flagler County then you must send new representatives.
Just a couple of comments:
Everything Coffey is involved turns out to be a piece of shit
Anyone who buys any building with inspections is an idiot
Anyone who blows renovation estimates by over 300% should be run out of town without severance
Applying for hardening money indicates the building was not fit for it’s intended purpose. May come from the Feds or State but where do they get it.
My guess is the building s it sits was probably worth less than $300,000.
There goes Coffey running the mouth to cover up all the bull s==t he’s spread since this issue came up. I hope Hansens replacement has more balls to get rid of this bottom feeding parasite.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
County kept this quiet for a month and who knows how much longer had you not done your usual investigation .. all the way down to the enter of the earth just about !
Your exposing the real issues affecting Flagler County should wake everyone up to what really matters, (especially those who are more interested in the latest ‘sign war news of the day’ and fancy fund raisers, free food and promises that not even the almighty could guarantee.
It’s also about ‘people more than party’ – Please everyone study all the candidates qualifications, backgrounds, experience and whatever you do please don’t vote based on the number of signs you see.
We need officials who will make sure properties are super clean BEFORE purchase, not after… And enough with this kindergarten ‘stuff’ -demand your officials define what ‘stuff’ to a ‘T’.
Another unhealthy, overpriced frivolous county purchase ( in my opinion)…
This has ‘gotta’ stop.. Right?
Kathryn B Abel says
What year was the original “bank building” constructed?
The girl who could. says
Here we go again! I just have one question I would like answered. Why does the County employees get a new building and the Sheriff’s employees get the leftover pieces of garbage? I worked for the Sheriff’s office for over 10 years and they were and still are being treated like second class citizens. Enough already! Get your act together Cofey or you’ll be standing in the unemployment line with Landon.
John Brady says
I know our Sheriff can catch a speeder on a motorcycle but can not catch a break with a building
Why are these inspections not done before purchase. Isn’t that what you do when you buy a home?
We need to learn from the mess in Palm Coast, what other train wrecks are known but not revealed. Will someone make a motion to fire Coffey. How many mistakes can he make before the Commissioners wake up.BTW I think a cause can be made for firing with cause which should invalidate any contract provisions
Wasn’t this the former soccer school? Would this be an issue for the kids who went there?
Ben Hogarth says
Should I be surprised? Should any of us be surprised?
Another beautiful day in Flagler County.
Oh, no another county building that isn’t safe to occupy, what is wrong with this picture? More waste of taxpayers money trying to fix a building with problems. It doesn’t appear they do their research before jumping into locations that end up having problems. Sounds like it is time to clean house.
Florida voter says
$100k costs become $300k? Can someone please look into who is doing that $300,000 worth of renovations and what ties they have to Coffey? What was the bidding process? Who decided to award them the contact(s)? What are the penalties for going over time or over budget?
This was the ill-fated soccer academy and then a funeral home. There were quite a few modifications made each time it was occupied. It’s better to be safe than sorry with the minor amount of asbestos encapsulated in the caulk. It would be just Flagler County’s dumb luck to get fined sometime down the road if they hadn’t taken care of it now. And we would have had ten times the negativity if that had happened. All of the armchair quarterbacks would have been fit to be tied!
Asbestos? Oh, just keep on voting republicans in,. After all, they are working hard at putting asbestos back into everything again, Sorry for your cancerous lung condition, folks! Our lobbyists paid us good money to bring that toxic cancerous item back into construction, etc. – Really, people? Vote out ALL republicans.
Randy Jones says
Hey annony – I’m extremely interested in your claim. Please provide some leads that we can follow to see which “republicans” are promoting “putting asbestos back into everything again”. Any proposed (or recently passed) laws or regulations? The names of the companies that are selling and distributing asbestos? Please help us track these persons and companies down? Do you think perhaps the Russians are involved? Please let us know.
@Glad to help
republicans weaken rules for asbestos
Analysis: As asbestos toll mounts, Trump’s EPA ignores it
The Trump Administration would rather assure the chemical industry that its products are safe from scrutiny, rather than certify they are safe for humans.