In the works since June, a new, joint agreement on management and oversight of the Carver Center in Bunnell will have to wait until at least January before it is enacted, because a misstep at the school district delayed a legal review of the agreement. That kept the School Board from seeing the revised proposal for the first time until the County Commission had already approved the original version.
The Flagler County Commission approved the joint agreement on Monday. The Flagler County Sheriff signed off on it as well, with its Police Athletic League programs known as PAL set to play a larger role at the center. The Flagler County School Board was to approve the document tonight.
Not so fast, its attorney, Kristy Gavin, said.
Gavin said she got the document in late November. “I saw that there were changes to be made,” she said. She made them, and a red-lined version of the document went to the county. The County Commission did not approve the red-lined version. It approved the original version. “I’m going to state if the board asks me: I don’t recommend we approve what was approved by the county commission, because there are areas that can be improved upon,” Gavin said.
The joint agreement, known as an inter-local agreement or ILA for short, because it involves several different government entities, was written behind closed doors in joint meetings involving staffers from the county, the school district, Bunnell, and the Sheriff’s Office and PAL. At the school board’s request in June, the county took the lead in developing the agreement, according to Jorge Salinas, the deputy county administrator.
The final draft of the agreement was completed on Nov. 13 and was to be reviewed by the Carver center Advisory Board on Nov. 27. The advisory board signed off. The County Commission held a workshop on it Monday afternoon and approved it Monday evening, hoping that the School Board would follow suit tonight. But Salinas cautioned his commission that if the School Board were to approve a different document, the whole approval process would have to restart. The Bunnell City Commission has yet to schedule a vote on the agreement. It has not discussed it in its present form.
The upending has frustrated county officials. “We have to start from the same starting point,” Salinas said. “We have a document that was approved by the advisory board, was approved by the four entities. This is the one we’re going to take to our board. If you take a different document, you’re starting from a different point.” Salinas got an email last Friday–Dec. 15–from the school district saying there were changes to be made. He called Superintendent LaShakia Moore after 4 p.m. Friday and asked: how can there be edits this late in the game?
“I find it odd that that the other boards have approved these without our our collaboration or participation,” Will Furry, who chairs the school board, said, overstating the case somewhat: there had been collaboration and participation on the district’s side all along, but Gavin hadn’t reviewed the document before the final draft Salinas referred to was set.
Why had Gavin not seen the document in a timely enough fashion to avoid all this, the School Board’s Cheryl Massaro asked. Both Josh Walker, a supervisor in the district’s human resources department, who’d been part of the ILA discussions, and Dave Freeman, the deputy superintendent for operations, took responsibility. “I should have brought her in sooner,” Freeman said of Gavin. Having worked with other ILAs, like with the concurrency ILA, I know that all the attorneys were working together. So my assumption was that Sean was getting with the attorney from Bunnell, was getting with the attorney from the sheriff, was already in–that’s my mistake.”
Either way, the School Board decide at its workshop this afternoon to table the matter until January, or at least not to vote on the Gavin edits, since those have to return to the other boards for approval first. “Because it’s our first review and mind you most of the board here has not been involved in these conversations, and we haven’t had incremental updates of any meaningful data,” Furry said.
To an outsider, the changes are not substantial, though the red-lined version may make it look like they are. In fact, Gavin’s changes are more structural than substantive, with paragraphs changing places and the joint roles between the school district and the sheriff made clearer. There are also additions specifying the annual $10,000 contributions to the Carver center from the School Board and $10,000 from the Sheriff’s Office (money drawn from the Sheriff’s asset forfeitures, or money derived from seizures of assets that previously belonged to drug dealers.) The county is providing $97,500 for the center’s operation.
The changes also include other inclusive additions, such as ensuring that programs are “are available to all youth in Flagler County regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, gender, disability, or financial situation.” PAL programs are fee-based, but the agreement stipulates that PAL will ensure that those who cannot afford to pay the fees will not be turned away.
In a related, and rather substantial change, the school district would exclude PAL from setting fees for activities at Carver center. That responsibility would belong only to the district and the county, with input from the Carver Advisory Committee. PAL would still get to jointly share the responsibility of developing programs at the center.
Carver center is in predominantly Black South Bunnell. It is that neighborhood’s only remaining institutional and recreational center with which it can identify, years removed from when it was Carver High School, a Black school before the county de-segregated. Surrounding residents bristle at attempts by the county, as in 2010, to close Carver (when it was known as Carver Gym), or at plans for Carver Center being devised by all sorts of entities and governments outside of South Bunnell, without South Bunnell’s involvement–that perspective has been conveyed by Daisy Henry, the former Bunnell City Commission member, a South Bunnell resident, and a member of the advisory board. She is still displeased at the process. “We’re not getting all the information. We’re getting it second hand,” she told the County Commission Monday, explaining why she was not on board with her board’s approval.
Henry was also critical of PAL’s and the Sheriff’s roles, a move she perceives as an attempt by the sheriff to take over the center, and that the sheriff and all other governments involved in the ILA say is a misinterpretation of the agreement.
“A lot of community misinformation out there, whether purposely or not, I don’t know,” a clearly frustrated Sheriff Rick Staly told the commission Monday, shortly after henry spoke. “Here’s what I can tell you. We don’t want to take over the Carver Gym. We want to be a partner. We don’t want to have it [as] a sheriff’s substation, which I’ve heard. What we want to do is provide youth sports for kids to improve their opportunity to not go down the wrong path,” and not end up at the county jail. Staly said there’s been so many versions of the ILA because it was a collaborative process, with all sides listening to each other until they could agree to the final terms. The sheriff’s partnership with hammock Dunes, he said raised over $100,000 “committed to providing programs for these kids in an at Carver.”
The Sheriff’s Chief Dave Williams, who was the agency’s point man in the ILA working group, stressed the financial equity component. PAL programs will be “open to everyone in the community, not just to the select few who can afford $100 for their kid to play or whatever the fee may be. So everyone had their say in this, there was no pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes or any misconceptions. Anyone who’s stating that now simply has heard the wrong story or has not read the proper inter-local agreement.”Flaglerschool.changes