The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office opened its much-anticipated, three-year delayed Palm Coast Precinct this morning at 14 Palm Harbor Village Way, in a building that’s had various incarnations as a bank, a soccer academy partly run by a now-convicted child molestor, and a funeral home.
For the Sheriff’s Office, it’s the first time in 40 years of policing Palm Coast that it can finally call a precinct there its own. Sheriff Rick Staly called it “a giant leap forward for the sheriff’s office for the last 40 years.”
His agency has been renting space for its precinct from such places as the old Palm Harbor shopping Center, City Market Place and in two separate stints, including the last two years, at 17 Old Kings Road. The precinct must vacate that space by the end of May.
The ribbon-cutting took place at the reincarnated building in the Island Walk Shopping center this morning, but the public hasn’t yet been redirected there as there remains a punch list of things to complete and some moving to do. The precinct will be moving from 2,000 square feet on Old Kings Road to more than double that space at the new, permanent location.
The Sheriff’s Office had nothing to do with the delays–or the associated costs. It’s not responsible for the facility except as a tenant. County government by law is the sheriff’s landlord. Three years ago, under the administration of then-Administrator Craig Coffey, the county bought the Wachovia building for $900,000, including closing costs, and is financing the purchase over 12 years. The county projected spending $100,00 to renovate the building and open it as the precinct house.
That didn’t happen. Like so many county building purchases, the Wachovia building was bedeviled with problems and delays. Coffey was forced to resign. Contending with a messy inheritance from Coffey, Jerry Cameron, his replacement, eyed placing the precinct into another ill-advised building Coffey’s administration had bought (the former Sears store on palm Coast Parkway). That building proved unusable and was eventually sold at a loss. Cameron planned a new sheriff’s Operations Center in Palm Coast for a while, to replace the evacuated one in Bunnell (because of another defective building), shelving plans to renovate the Wachovia building, which also went on the market. By the time the county finally decided to scrap plans for an Operations Center in Palm Coast and move it back to a location in Bunnell, the Wachovia building was back on the renovation track, and stayed there.
The Sheriff’s vision was realized through Joseph Pozzuoli Architects. It’s cost more than three times as much as originally planned to renovate: $320,000, though that figure vastly understates the true cost. Because the job was done in-house, by county work crews (“Mike Dixon did a phenomenal job,” the Sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge said of the county’s crew chief), the figure doesn’t reflect the silent and steep cost of labor.
It also overlooks the rent costs the county has been paying, via the sheriff’s budget, all these years of waiting: $5,000 a month for a year after the Wachovia building acquisition at City Market Place, and $3,500 a month for the past two years at the Old Kings Road location. That adds $100,000 in costs that could’ve been avoided with a swift move into the Wachovia building.
“There were no shortcuts,” Cameron said, the building having to be built to commercial specifications and follow the City of Palm Coast’s codes.
“It was a lot of work, a lot of in house labor that was involved, we took this building down to bare concrete, and then rebuilt it into what you see today,” says Dixon.
“Long term is a much better deal for the taxpayers, it gives us a permanent home so there’s no…no madness,” says Staly.
The building is equipped with space enough for a full district office. Furnished with numerous cubicles, private offices, briefing and an interview rooms (for suspects, not reporters), deputies will be able to take full advantage of the new space to write reports, process evidence, meet directly with community members, conduct briefings, interview alleged offenders and hold training classes.
Mayor Milissa Holland after a tour of the facility was impressed by the way its old bank vault was put to use: “They retrofitted it in a way that made sense for the facility,” she said. “They utilized almost like a cooling area for law enforcement or to have lockers, to refrigerate, and it could almost be used as a bunker area in times of emergencies. I think it was a great use of space.” She termed the city “incredibly grateful for the Board of County Commissioners, for the investment, not only in this facility, but a continuation of the partnership that has grown in regard to public safety overall in our community.” Aside from a precipitous drop in crime of nearly 50 percent over the past five years, the city’s recent survey of residents pointed to a record 96 percent saying they feel safe in their city. “We’re seeing the outcomes of all of their hard work,” Holland said.
Holland was one of numerous elected officials in attendance, including three county commissioners but just one other city council member (Victor Barbosa), and Flagler Beach Commissioner Rick Belhumeur. The precinct commander will be Sgt. Kenny Goncalves.
At the ribbon-cutting this morning there was a flag-raising, the reciting of the Pledge, invocations and a few speeches. Commission Chairman Donald O’Brien said most people want “their civil rights protected, they want to be treated fair and equally, and they want effective policing.” He said the new building “embodies effective and efficient policing” that he believes the community needs. He seemingly couldn’t resist veering into an inexplicable polemic about what he called “the most stupidest, vacuous term or slogan that I have heard, almost in my lifetime, and that is ‘defund the police,’” a statement that drew the desired applause but that zero relevance to a community like Flagler.
Policing budgets locally have never known the slightest retrenchment, and they hardly have elsewhere. O’Brien was pandering to the misleading association between “defunding” and “abolishing,” which had currency on right-wing media outlets but almost never in actual municipal budgets, where the matter focused more on reallocating some policing funds. The county commission itself, O’Brien included, has not at all always acceded to the sheriff’s full budget requests when facing its own reallocation needs.
The Flagler County’s Sheriff’s Office continues to evolve. “This is the first footprint, you know, the start of a professional district office, and then the operation, new operations administrative district 3 office, the ground has been cleared,” Staly said. “So by September 2022 that building should be move-in ready, so we’re really setting a foundation to serve this community for decades.”
Finally! I’m very pleased for FCSO, and I’m sure the deputies and other staff who have been moved around from one building to another and had to work in sometimes cramped and even unsuitable locations are ready to breathe a sign of relief that they will be moving into a newly remodeled building of their own. These dedicated men and women continue to do a really good job for the citizens of Flagler County and the City of Palm Coast, and we need to continue to support them in their efforts to keep our communities a safe place to live and work.
Concerned Reident says
Really. 3 years late and $300,000 dollars over budget? Who’s watching the store? Was a business owner for 36 years and if I had that kind of an issue, I’d be bankrupt. Glad Palm Coast has kind and forgiving taxpayers.
Finally but 3 years after the fact and way over budget is really nothing to Celebrate. Mismanagement is more like it. It seems par for the course in FPC Government. Glad for FCSO though.
Concerned Citizen says
Two things here.
1.) Why were no minorites invited to the opening ceremony? All I see are Caucasian people. Surely the Sheriff’s Office and Flagler County realize equality is important? A quick review of the Sheriffs Office Command staff (Minus Chief Williams) shows a great lack of Equal Opportunity in this area.
2.) Why was this project allowed to go over budget by 300K? Who is managing projects these days? Whoever it is costs the County some serious money. Everytime something is done.
The county obviously needs to stay out of the Real Estate and Project busniess. If we keep allowing over budget projects we won’t have money left to operate on.
Not sure how much of the cost over-run can be laid at the feet of the current county administration. For anyone with the basic knowledge of how a police station functions, the user needs, the design requirements and remodeling costs to have budgeted $100,000 for this renovation, well, they had their head where the sun does not shine. That $100K would barely cover the necessities for a normal office use; a few coats of paint, maybe some new flooring, a few plumbing fixtures and some new casework and trim, NOT the full-fledged gut and burn needed to convert it into a functioning police station. A more realistic figure would have been in the $175 – $200 per square foot range. Removing the labor costs which would account for 40 – 45% of the remodel costs and we end up in that $300,000 range.
Why is it that we continue to pay for Coffee’s incompetence? Why is it that he has never been held accountable, How could he have gotten another job? Don’t bother to answer, I know the why’s. We just refuse to learn from our mistakes . . .
James Manfre says
The Staly spending spree continues. 1.1 million dollars for the cost of this building and renovations, 1 million dollars for the Sears building that was the alternative to this building, 14 million dollars in principle and interest for the former operations center that he refused to reoccupy, 25 million dollars in principle and interest for the new building that is almost double the previous operation center in square feet and a 40% increase in the sheriff budget in four years. This money could have been better spent on a mental health facility in a county where the suicide rate is alarmingly high and increasing the salaries of our under payed county employees and deputies.
Concerned Citizen says
A lot of that Operations Center mess occured on your watch.
Nice try slinging mud though. All of our politicians are guilty of mismanagement and wild spending in this county. You all stopped caring about your constituents long ago and it shows.
Shame on the voters who keep voting these people in office. Expecting different every time.