Almost a year to the day when the Flagler County Commission voted to build a new sheriff’s district office on Palm Coast Parkway, next to the public library, the commission today aborted that plan, moving the building back to Bunnell. Commissioners voted 5-0 to build what will be a Sheriff’s Operations Center on land south of the Government Services Building, co-locating the sheriff’s building with a planned library branch there.
The sheriff’s operations center would be located on Commerce Parkway, not far from First Baptist Church. The long-term plan for the parkway is to be a bypass around Bunnell, linking State Road 100 and U.S. 1.
A Bunnell district office (or operations center) had been planned for the sheriff there anyway, but several years down the line. It’s less clear when the sheriff would have his own district office in Palm Coast, without having to rent space, though discussion today again raised the possibility that that district office would be in the old Wachovia Bank building off Old Kings Road, which has been under chronic reconstruction.
Bunnell Vice Mayor John Rogers was jubilant when told of the switch. Bunnell officials had been vocally unhappy at the planned move to Palm Coast, and at one point raised the prospect of suing the county on constitutional grounds, saying the move would hurt the city and went counter to requirements that a sheriff’s headquarters be located in the county seat. That’s now a moot point.
“That’s some good news. Going through what we have been through the last several weeks with this pandemic, this is good news,” Rogers said in an interview. “That’s just the right thing to do. That is a win-win for the citizens of Bunnell and Flagler County. I’m excited to hear that, that’s some good news.”
The switch back to Bunnell is not entirely a surprise. FlaglerLive first reported that possibility in early March
The county hopes to sell much of acreage around the public library in Palm Coast, which sits on 17 acres of county-owned land, most of it wooded. Revenue from the sale would help pay for the sheriff’s operations center. That’s assuming the coming recession doesn’t depress the real estate market.
The new alternative “has many more plusses than it does minuses,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said. “Not only does it allow us to sell the property over in Palm Coast and get some money for it, but it would allow us to use the old bank building as a sheriff’s substation in Palm Coast.”
The switch does not substantially alter the timing of the project: the county has been carrying out most of the pre-construction steps, with engineering and architectural bids, so constructing the building itself would proceed roughly at the same time that it would have had it gone in Palm Coast. “We are proceeding with the design process on schedule,” County Administrator Jerry Cameron said.
Sheriff Rick Staly this morning spoke his approval of the plan. “I fully support–if you will recall over a year ago now, the location that you’re talking about was my Number One choice, because it’s a logical location. It’s near the courthouse, it’s near the EOC, it’s near my communications center, it’s near fleet, it’s near fuel. So all the things that we need to operate are there. And then in addition, you have the bank building that has been gutted, and then stopped. And you’ve already done the design work on the interior and to finish that. In my opinion, if you try to sell it now, you will not get what you have invested in it because of its condition.”
The sheriff in fact last year had lent his support to three locations equally, the Bunnell location among them, leaning at the time toward the Palm Coast location because it was nearer the center of policing’s service area. He said the best deal for taxpayers is to co-locate the Sheriff’s Operations Center on Commerce Drive, finish the bank building in a timely way to enable the sheriff to get out of the current lease on rented space off Old Kings Road (that least has a year and a half or so to go).
“My main concern is that we don’t lose momentum,” Commissioner Donald O’Brien said.
Jim Ulsamer, who chairs the Library Board of Trustees and who, with Library Director Holly Albanese, has kept up the pressure on the commission to make good on building the branch library, raised a few concerns about the draft layouts for the co-located buildings, which would place the sheriff’s building toward the front and the library behind it.
“A library is a place where large numbers of citizens want to go, while a police station is often visited for other reasons. Do you want your traffic facing municipal structure to be a library or a police station? I know what my preference would be,” Ulsamer wrote the commissioners in an email, which Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan read at the meeting today. “Perhaps the final design can give both structures adequate space and proper visibility and access. This idea sprung up with no opportunity to examine in any detail and at a time when everyone is focused on COVID-19. And, maybe it is not under the purview of the library trustees, but a little extra input never hurts.”
Sullivan said he had talked to Ulsamer about the email. “He’s not against the concept, and we have a long way to go as far as the final design on having both units located in the same location,” Sullivan said, though that may not necessarily be reassuring to library officials, who would rather not see the sheriff’s building’s plan overshadow the library’s.
The commission held its meeting virtually, through Zoom, with each commissioner, the county administrator, the county administrator and others–including Staly and county directors–joining the meeting at different points. Cameron said preliminary plans done in-house indicate both buildings can be accommodated at the Commerce Parkway location.
“I’m excited for the county and I’m excited for the city of Bunnell,” Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson said. “We are the county seat, we always wanted it to stay in Bunnell, but we yielded to the county’s process” Robinson noted the benefit of Commerce Parkway as a government hub and a future major artery through town. “That really is a great area to have something like that.”
The decision was likely to bring some disappointment to Palm Coast officials, who had been eager for the original plan on the parkway.
“The decision as to where County Constitutional Officers offices are located is within the County Commissions jurisdictional authority and their role,” Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland said in a text shortly after the county’s decision. “If any County offices are to be located or are located within the boundaries of the City of Palm Coast we will support, assist and be as helpful as possible, wherever and however we can. I have not been involved with where the Sheriff’s headquarters will ultimately be located but I am sure that the Commissions decision this morning was made based on input and guidance from the stakeholders directly involved and to the benefit of our residents, who ultimately are the ones paying for it.”
Where is it now? I know it’s been moving around a lot but if I ever needed to go there where would I go?
This is the best news. So happy it’s coming back to Bunnell, where it should be – and, a new Library and by-pass road to boot. Sounds good and will be good for the county.
CB from PC says
Great. Library and Sheriff’s HQ together. Easy to keep out the homeless who think a LIbrary Restroom is their personal spa, and the facility a good place for a nod out.
The Palm Coast location was not a good idea.
Police Cruisers speeding out on calls and the crappy drivers here do not mix.
Keep the fence and no trespassing signs on the existing site on PC Pkwy.
Did you ever have to finally decide
Pickup on one
And leave the other behind
It’s not often easy
And not often kind
Have you ever had to make up your mind?
Sometimes you really dig a location
The minute you pick it
But then get distracted
By a site with a bigger payoff
I wish they would stop. They only make poor decisions. Better to just stop doing anything because they only make things worse. There’s no plan here obviously. You’re screwing the tax payers of today and tomorrow with your ineptitude.
Wow. I am disappointed in the commission’s decision. I feel that this is a mistake, however I understand the feeling that it should be located in the county seat. However, it makes more sense to locate a large presence in the town with the highest population, which requires a greater police presence. Bunnell has it’s own police department, unlike Palm Coast who does not. I also am very against using the old Wachovia building. Judging by the history of bad real estate purchases regarding that particular real estate broker, I think that they would just be asking for trouble. Who knows what mold and water leakage that building has??? They would be better off starting from scratch on a good sound piece of property with no known issues. I hope the next election will resolve this issue promptly and that our new commissioners make sound decisions rather than bending to the will of a small group of vocal opponents.
Does that mean the homeless can go back behind the library?
Police the police says
They had no intention on making this location the new sheriff’s station/sub station. Signs were put up to move the homeless out to another location not visible from public roadways.
Wow! Frick and a Frack has no idea what to do. At least they didn’t piss away millions more, not yet anyway.
Building a FCSO district office in Palm Coast makes complete sense. It’s centrally located in the county and Palm Coast has practically everything a major metropolitan city has and sadly it’s keeping up with the crime too. So why not a district office within the city limits? Why should residents have to drive to Bunnell to conduct whatever business is needed at the Sheriff’s Office? What makes complete sense is to build a “Headquarters” in Bunnell (which is the County Seat for you transplants who don’t know) and a district office in Palm Coast. The growth of Flagler County warrants such an expense now instead of later when commissioners will be scrambling to find vacant land to build on in the future.
Bunnell pressure finally worked!
Hope the pressure about controlling these foreign students pilots (from this probably foreign owned also) being a nuisance allover Palm Coast any time of day an night can also be answered and they should keep these student pilots practicing west of Rte 1 over the unincorporated (agricultural mostly lands) areas or over the ocean. No so much to ask as since the last 5 years this is becoming unbearable…All intended newcomers here thinking about moving into Palm Coast the Crown Jewel of nothern Florida, better be aware that paying advaloren taxes of 3000 and up a year will give them the privilege of the pilot schools at the airport creating a nuisance noise overhead were is hard to hear the birds and the sound of silence that we all need if we are paying for quality of life! Even 10 miles from the airport there is no peace then I can imagine what is for those poor residents near the airport with all those touch and go since they installed the tower in the airport. And though the airport been here since 1944 never before was this nuisance until the goofy BOCC decided to open it to all these foreign pilots schools. Is like, sock it to you or move now!
Mike Cocchiola says
So, the Flagler BOCC bungled another one. First, they cut a dubious deal with the Bunnell city commissioners to build a $30 million or so (after taxes, tags, title and loan interest) “district office” in Palm Coast in defiance of the State constitution. Then they used the deal as an excuse to clear out the homeless living on the land (next to the FC Library) Note: the homeless are still homeless and they’re still in Flagler. Next, they announce they’ll use some county-owned land on Moody Blvd. to build the sheriff’s “operations center”, thus satisfying Bunnell commissioners. Then, unbelievably, they say (through the BOCC soothsayer Joe Mullins) all of this will cost taxpayers next to nothing by selling off the old operations center, the Sears building and maybe the bank building.
Now, this. Caught up in their own web of public disinformation, they’re back to ground zero… Bunnell. And they still won’t consider fixing the old operations center and making the sheriff reoccupy the building. Why not? Because it isn’t grand enough? Maybe it’s because they just won’t stand up to the chief Republican in Flagler.
James Manfre says
There is nothing wrong with the present abandoned operations center. Building another center after spending seven million dollars purchasing and renovating the old hospital is wasteful. I agree that the building should not have been purchased in the first place. That is on the former County Administrator. It is a shame that the present county administrator, Jerry Cameron, has to clean up this mess left to him. I know he is working hard to remedy all the problems handed to him and he is attempting to make the best decisions with all the politics surrounding this issue. Two separate independent bodies have stated that the building is safe for occupancy. I understand the employees fears after the county reacted slowly to the symptoms that were developing after the county demolished the old moldy patient wings fifteen months after the building was in use. It is probable that the inept demolition by the county which was done without a DEP permit and a experienced hazardous waste contractor caused the building to inhale contaminants that led to the employee’s health issues. I was a vocal supporter of the building being abandoned and then remediated. That has been done and certified to be free of contaminants. Many homes and office buildings have mold issues and are successfully reoccupied after a professional cleaning. The county in 2003 spent seventy million dollars to build the Government Services Building, the County Courthouse and the EOC Building. The county is still paying for the bonds to finance the construction of those buildings. In 2012, the County issued thirty million dollars in bonds to be paid over thirty years for the Sheriff’s Operation Center, the new inmate facility and other county purchases. With the coming economic downturn due to the corona virus and the resulting decrease in sales tax and other revenues, this is not the time to burden taxpayers with more debt and spending. I understand the sheriff employee’s fears about moving back into the operation center. Rather than spend another fifteen to thirty million dollars plus interest on a new operation center, why not offer employees a bonus to reoccupy the building. For those severely affected by the previous mold issues and unwilling to reoccupy, alternate space can be used in the clerk’s office or the EOC where the sheriff’s communication center is located. This would be much less costly. I was in the old hospital almost five days a week for fifteen months during demolition and construction because the contractor was so inept. Although I am not an engineer, my father had a site development company for thirty years that I worked in and I am familiar with the construction process from my municipal and private practice experience. My staff and I occupied the building for fifteen months until the end of my term. During this thirty month period, no construction worker, county employee, sheriff’s employee or myself ever showed any health related symptoms due to the construction or occupying of the operation center. There is nothing inherently wrong with the building or there would have been medical issues prior to the demolition of the patient wings. I understand that the County and sheriff have difficult decisions to make, but this county cannot afford additional bad financial decisions to affect taxpayers who are increasingly due to the influx of over sixty five years old’s this past decade in Flagler on fixed incomes. Our tax base is ninety per cent dependent on residential taxes. It should be only seventy per cent, but that is a story for another day. I hope this point of view is a consideration in future decisions.
Staley. Use have a lot of clout, or they are afraid of him
Retired Joe says
Bunnell has it’s own police force,
Flagler Beach has it’s own police force,
Palm Coast relies on the county sheriff’s deputies for protection, the location behind the library in centrally located in Flagler County.
Tell me what I’m not understanding here?