The Flagler County jail’s surveillance system, including 149 cameras, is not yet seven years old. It’s failing. The Flagler County Commission–the jail’s landlord–is having to replace it for $1.6 million, just months after the county administration told commissioners that it would cost only $500,000.
The commission last summer budgeted the $500,000. Now, because of the miscalculation, it has to go into county reserves for the remaining $1.1 million. That’ll bring the county’s reserves below the critical threshold of 5 percent of the budget, less than five months into the fiscal year.
Some commissioners are not happy.
“The reserve to me is an emergency fund, and this is just a bad planning fund, is what it’s coming out to be,” Commissioner Andy Dance said, with hurricane season nearing.
“Coming up with an additional $1.1 million right after we approve the budget for the year seems to be a terrible way to run the railroad,” Commissioner Dave Sullivan said at a commission meeting Monday evening. “In this case it is bad because our reserves are being depleted quickly, and we’re not halfway through the fiscal year yet.” He added: “We expect the staff to to figure this out ahead of time and not make a $1.1 million problem.”
Notably, the breakdown of the new cost–the itemization of the contract–was not included in the commissioners’ materials, or the material available for public examination.
Commissioner Donald O’Brien said “you don’t want to make excuses,” just before making excuses for the administration–namely, the IT director, saying he was new in the job. Then, admitting to “grandstanding a little bit,” O’Brien said the county had a responsibility to corrections deputies and inmates to make this decision.
No one is disputing that, of course. “I don’t have any objections to the fact that we desperately need the system,” Dance said. But when the commission was first presented with the $1.6 million cost in November, the understanding was that it would be renegotiated, and if the cost couldn’t be lowered, the county would go out to bid again. It did not. Dance wanted to know why.
Rivera put it starkly: “Based on current market conditions,” he said, “I would have no confidence that we would have any better result than what we currently have.” Dance wondered what sort of research led Rivera to that conclusion. Rivera cited “the cost of labor and the cost of all of the components needed for the scope of this system.” The answer was not more precise than that.
“While only being seven years old,” a county memo summarizing the issue to commissioners states, “the initial solution has outlived its usefulness and needs complete replacement.”
The new “solution” entails a replacement of the server, of 149 cameras (with built in capabilities for more), the intercom system, and the door-control system. “You can’t replace one piece without replacing all those pieces. If you take one out, the whole system breaks,” Rivera said. The current system is not only problematic. Every time there’s an issue, it can take four to six weeks for a resolution, because the vendor is Alabama-based. “Our in house IT support will be able to work and repair and maintain the system. Black Creek had agreed to train our personnel. And if there is something that’s outside of our ability to handle, instead of having to wait for someone to come from out of state, they have subcontracted with a company that’s right here in Hollywood, Florida.”
Last summer the commission went through tortuous negotiations with the sheriff to approve the agency’s current budget, and ultimately had to reduce non-law enforcement items to accommodate the sheriff’s increases. The surveillance system is on the county’s side of the ledger. So the $500,000 it approved at the time was in the county budget.
Now, Sullivan said, “we’re going up to $1.6 million, and kind of like: okay, you guys didn’t know anything about that 30 days ago? You had no idea it was going to cost more than 500,000?” While he prevaricated over whether it was anybody’s fault (he kept saying it was nobody’s fault, but also said he wanted someone to take a lie-detector test), he called it “the worst possible way of doing a budget to approve a budget for the coming year–less than 30 days later, say we need another $1.1 million for a system we allocated funds for. If we had known that, at the end of the budget process in October, I think we might have made things a little different.”
Why did the system fail to start with? “We didn’t make great decisions in implementing the security system at the time the jail was built, from all of my research,” Dance said, “and we’re paying the price on a proprietary system and all the other downsides with that, maybe even an antiquated system at the time of installation. We all know that technology needs to be replaced periodically.”
The commission approved building the new jail–strictly speaking, an expansion–in February 2015, for $18 million. The county, not the sheriff (Jim Manfre was the sheriff at the time), oversaw the project, with recommendations from the Sheriff’s Office.
Heidi Petito, the county administrator, said the county had been planning to replace the system, but that costs have been mounting across the board. “Maybe it is poor timing, but our reserves are there for a reason that we tap into them, although it’s not ideal. That’s what they’re there for,” Petito said. “As you recall last year, we had to tap into them to replace fire trucks.” She then subtly turned the tables on the commission, saying it should not only be replenishing the reserves for what it periodically takes out, but increasing the reserves well above the 5 percent threshold.
But that’s a policy decision the commission has resisted, because it’s been more interested in giving the impression that it’s holding the line on taxes, by reducing the tax rate in symbolic increments while, among other things, foregoing such responsibilities are a healthier reserve. Petito said the commission will soon be asked to tap into reserves again for health care costs.
But Sullivan returned to the issue at hand: the sudden difference in projected costs that still seemed unexplained, despite the rationales presented. “If we were in our budget for 2023 to put in $10 million to build a firehouse and less than 30 days later you came back and said, well, that firehouse is now going to cost $30 million, I think there’d be kind of an uproar. We’d say that that’s insane. We can’t do that. So that’s why it got to me. And I think it does talk to the budget process, some.”
For all that, the commission approved the spending unanimously.
Dennis C Rathsam says
Are you serious? The Commissioners should be held accountable, whats the hell is going on here? Once these Commissioners get ellected, they must leave thier brains at home! Stop the blame game, the public is not stupit. You guys screwed up royally! Either you purchased a bad camera system, or you got ripped off. Flagler County is a mess, seems no one cares. Our taxes continue to clime, wheres all the money going from all the new folks that moved in? They used to say theres something rotten in Denmark, its not Denmark…..Its Palm Coast!
Biden Inflation. The lies of “Build Back Better” for America. Another day in paradise, in “BABFC.” Biden’s “Unaffordable Housing”, even prisons aren’t affordable.
JOE D says
OMG…..why not Blame Biden for the change in seasons….you’re posts are starting to sound like a banging one tone gong ….Biden is the cause of everything…..why not CANCER?
Yes, everything has gone up in price! My replacement Hurricane HVAC cover went from $550 in 2019 to $1825 after Ian in 2022. Increase cost of importing Aluminum due to Covid factory closures overseas. Increased labor costs since the cost of raises is getting passed onto customers
But, for a 300% cost over run in a recently submitted budget ….Ridiculous. I would fumble through this year and get more bids to get that price down….and I would be holding the budgetary people accountable for such a large mistake!! Not the Commissioners
During one of the recent Commission meetings a suggestion was made to dip into the emergency reserve fund for some Ian recovery expense. It was tabled due to not wanting to deplete the reserve so early in the year, when you don’t know what’s coming
Ian was an unpredictable emergency (a once in a 500 year storm”)…..the camera system over run is pure incompetence
My property taxes are $6500 for a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath 1150 sq ft townhouse….I expect that my tax dollars not be treated like a “slush fund”…..between the property tax increases $500 each year and the proposed insurance $4400…I’m going to have to move out of the state to be able to afford staying retired
The dude says
Yeah… Biden didn’t plan this video system very well, did he???
HAHAHAHAHAHA… like EVERYTHING in this city or county, this is pure MAGA incompetence. Yet you’ll vote for the same shitweasels every time, and whine about Biden.
Lance Carroll says
Bag of groceries tripled in price over same time period. Are you surprised that infrastructure costs more too? Big business is the culprit. Political whining is a scapegoat. Biden pooped his pants and I bet that you are not aware of how all politicians sh*t on everybody. You and me included.🙂
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
What does our President have to do with the jail and it’s cameras that were approved by the GOP controlled board of Flagler County.
Other Brother Darryl says
First off, yeah, seven years in technology is attune to dog years. It’s the underlying infrastructure that, when done right, should last. Expect the endpoint devices themselves to be sacrificial and replaced often, but they should also be super cheap, plug and play and autonomous with no single point of failure to the system. Modern non-proprietary tech provides for that now.
I’ve read through the specs and this system should come in around $250k, plus tax tag title. Maybe $1k a month for ongoing maintance and support. No licensing. Are you kidding me? Licenses in 2023? The problem is government beaurocracy. Many corporations survive and thrive on doing nothing but government, because they know that government pays. Government does not think like the private sector. After all, it’s not really their money, it’s ours! I try not to touch government with a ten foot pole ’cause it just leaves a nasty, uneasy feeling every damn time.
I can show them how and where to procure the modern, non-proprietary, open-sourced and secured equipment. Equipment sitting in warehouses right here within our shores. I can show them that they don’t need an outside vendor, and if they do need an outside vendor, there are several right here in Flagler County. I can show them how to utilize this thang called “the cloud” for video management. But when done right, modern, open technology is effectively idiot proof, and the county’s IT director can and should know how to maintain it. No vendor lock. No hardware lock. Open, industry standard protocols and methods.
I’ve done this for many local companies and organizations. Many. It’s only rocket surgery when you want it to be, and government always seems to want it to be. No one ever got fired for recommending Cisco, or Microsoft, etc. I suppose. So when you leave the decision making processes to people in fear of losing their jobs or reputational risks because they may actually have to think for themselves and others, then you get to spend ten times more than ever needed.
If someone from the county wants to talk with me about this I’ll be happy shed some light. I’m not going to publicize my info because, well, internet trolls love to hate. But there are several dozen organizations in the area that are very happy to know who I am. FL can get them contact info if requested.
Been There says
There were issues with the system when they very first installed it. I remember all the issues they were having, to include the doors keeping the inmates in opening randomly. The techs that were working the issues were pretty transparent about what was going on whenever you would talk to them. Duct tape and band aids by the County’s then I.T. Director apparently did the job long enough for him to find employment outside of Flagler.
Miscalculation, sure sounds like it. Does one know what the other is doing in the county commissioners office? Sure doesn’t sound very organized. Get it together or we can always vote you all out in the next election.
The dude says
“Bad planning”… heh…
There’s a lot of that around here. Yet they vote the same time and again, every election.
It’s almost as if the residents of Flagler county, Palm Coast, and Flagler Beach are voting specifically for “bad planning”. They do it everytime.
Just WOW! Pretty sure if I screwed up that bad at work I would be fired.
Sullivan and O’Brien always looking to pass the buck. When Dance ask for workshops prior to making budgeting decision they would get their man Mullins to vote along with them making consistently bad decisions that would cost the taxpayers more in the long run. Stop blaming staff!!
STOP TAXING THE AIR I BREATHE says
This is getting RIDICULOUS! Every day we get another kick in the A$$ as taxpayers because some city or county officials didn’t do their homework before spending our money. I am so over this. Don’t tell me to move – I’d love to but can’t due to being someone’s primary caregiver until they pass. UGH
Concerned Citizen says
Several folks at fault here.
1.) The Sheriff. He’s responsible for EVERYTHING in his agency. It starts at the top. And works it’s way down. Why does he keep having Million dollar issues? And we keep letting him get away with it? Do better at the polls. Before he bankrupts us.
2.) Our BOCC they have caved time and time every time this Sheriff needs something. Multiple building purchases. A multi million dollar Operations Center. Every time he shakes a paper at them they say Sir Yes Sir. Why? Why does he hold so much power? Why is the BOCC afraid of Staly?
Lastly: Us the voters. This group of elected officials has just about robbed this county dry. And continues to do so. Who is to blame? We are!! Stop voting the same and expecting different. It does not work. Why is this county so afraid of new faces?
We can and need to start doing better. Otherwise this cycle continues to repeat it’s self.
5% somewhere says
That does seem like a lot of money just for surveillance camera system. The commissioners should be knowledgeable about why the costs went up and have solutions BEFORE the issue came up for a vote. Try doing your homework next time. Get the information you need to make proper decisions and not just make knee jerk decisions due to your laziness.
5% reserves is nothing. Where is your plan if there’s an emergency or, in this case, an unexpected expense. Who operates that way? Such incompetence by our county commissioners and yet they keep getting elected.
Then they want us to let them spend 74 million on the arts? We don’t have enough money for the basics.
I think we all know the difference between want and need by now. I want to drive a Mercedes, but my budget warrants a Malibu so I buy the Malibu. Be responsible with taxpayer money Commissioners and Administration, buy the Malibu. Great that the company has a good reputation but if you have a Malibu budget you don’t get the Mercedes plain and simple. Unless of course, you don’t know how to manage a budget – which is becoming increasingly obvious in Flagler County. Our county manager actually said, “that’s what reserves are for”!?!? Wow, does she even have enough sense to be embarrassed by her idiotic statement? Why do the Commissioners think that because the current IT Director was in the military that he is a great guy? This presentation started out with that, and it lends itself to the fact that they do not hold staff accountable for their actual work and factual knowledge. The county manager blamed the previous IT Director but failed to acknowledge that she was personally in charge of facilities for years when the electric upkeep was subpar along with several other facility concerns (mold, irreparable buildings that suddenly become perfectly fine, others that are neglected for a decade under her direction then must be torn down….) The IT Director claimed to have begun employment in August when in fact it was several months earlier. Prior to him starting, the assistant county manager Jorge Salinas was the acting IT Director. What was his excuse for the poor planning on this project? He is quick to claim credit for staffs work, why not own his poor work as well?
Fed up Fred says
Where can I sign up to be a vendor for the county? I can sell them any piece of junk for a well inflated price regardless if it works or not and they will keep on shelling out the money.
But then again the county has shelled out millions already on the “PALACE OF JUSTICE” due to incompetence, what’s another million or two ?
The county clearly has no budgeting process nor competence. At a minimum, the questions now should be:
1. How did you arrive at the original budget price? (Documentation to support this.)
2. Exactly what in the current price is higher than originally planned? Why?
3. When did you know the price was going to triple? When was it reported?
4. Who did the original budget? Justify how that was done.
5. What is going to be done differently in the future to assure this doesn’t happen again? (Hint – if it does, heads should roll.)
And I have to say, $1.6M for 149 cameras, servers, intercom and a door control system seems quite outrageous to me. Assuming a good camera costs $1k each, that’s $149k. A server at maybe $10k? What could an intercom system cost? Are they running new wires as well or is it wireless? Someone in the county government should be doing a deep dive into this project. The costs seem way out of line.
Also, apparently no repercussions for the failure of the last system. Seven years for a camera system is not acceptable. Surely you could purchase replacement cameras as needed.
This is about as sad a display of government oversite as I’ve ever seen. I look forward to the next election!