Last December, when sketches of the operations center were unveiled and just after the commission approved the plans for a November, 2021 opening, Cameron had joked that “the sheriff will owe me lunch. He didn’t believe that we’d accomplish that on schedule.”
Staly had been right not to believe the administration after all. It’s not clear if Cameron, whose last day as administrator is this week, managed to prematurely get that lunch. Or at least apologized to the sheriff and his agency.
Flagler County government revealed this week that the Sheriff’s Operations Center planned for Commerce Parkway in Bunnell will be delayed yet again, for almost a year. The opening of the 51,000-square-foot facility is now seen no earlier than the end of 2022. By then, the sheriff will have been exiled from the former Sheriff’s Operations Center on State Road 100 for almost four and a half years–longer than a full term in office.
The sheriff has nothing to do with the delays: it’s not his project. The county is landlord to all constitutional officers, responsible for ensuring their facilities. But because of indecision, prevarication, false starts and sheer inaction–the latest delays were caused by the county’s belated agreement to hold meetings with its contractors by zoom–the county commission and the administration have left the sheriff’s agency at the mercy of the county’s limbo.
The commission on Monday approved a $2.9 million appropriation for site work at the 8.4-acre project location, which has been cleared of trees. But that’s just for extending utilities, fencing, paving and associated preparatory work–before the first cornerstone has been laid. And that’s just phase one of site preparation. The project will require another appropriation in September for foundational work.
Commissioners were reduced to applauding themselves for meeting pointless “milestones” recently established, so that the delays so far don’t look as dire: “I noticed we’ve already hit one milestone already, June 14,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said, apparently seeing a joke in the matter. “We’re supposed to have completed negotiations, have we done that?” He was told the administration had. “I like that answer.”
Then came the more serious accountability questions from commissioners, which these days are restricted to Andy Dance: “When the original contract was signed back in November, the detailed schedule had construction being completed in November of 2021, and the completion date is now October of 2022. So, can you speak to, from the first time we signed the contract to what’s gone into pushing that contract, that completion date out.” (Only phase 1, the site work, is expected to be completed by this November.)
Lon Newman, an Ajax company official, said: “There were some things that happened during the design and pricing that delayed completion of the design.” But he didn’t explain what those “things” were and why the work just didn’t get done as promised last November, with months into the pandemic, when all organizations had adjusted to its challenges and approached projects with it in mind.
“Okay so now we’re on schedule for October, 2022,” Dance continued.
“As soon as we knew when the actual design was going to be complete, from that moment we haven’t altered off of our schedule,” Newman said. Dance wanted to ensure the county had a point of contact to make sure schedules were respected. He was also concerned about contingency costs–whether those are firm numbers or whether that also may be modified in case of cost increases. But Ajax provided only a contingency cost for phase 1. It has yet to produce subsequent contingencies. But Newman said “the contingency amount we put into the GMP”–the guaranteed maximum price of the contract–“will not increase.” That price for phase two, of course, is not yet known.
As always, other commissioners had no questions and seemed unconcerned by the nearly year-long delay: the ceremonial groundbreaking and speechifying was behind them. Administrator Jerry Cameron tried to apply some make-up to the delay: “I think that it is incredible that we maintained as much of a schedule as we did with everything shutting down during Covid,” he said, neglecting to mention that county operations had never “shut down” except in portions, and briefly, in the spring of 2020, and that by the time the commission approved the original timeline last November, all county and private sector operations in the state were operating largely within norms.
On Monday, he continued: “And the great news here is that this portion of the contract is coming in exactly on budget, which is a phenomenal thing within itself”–again forgetting what he had told commissioners barely two years ago: that the new operations center would cost between $12 and $15 million, and that it would not need additional tax revenue. Both propositions are now outdated. The county is hoping to pass an increase in the sales tax to pay for its mounting costs.
The operations center project is estimated to cost $19 million. But that’s construction cost, not the actual cost of the mortgage to the county–to taxpayers–which, because of the loan and financing costs attached, amounts to $22.85 million (for now, anyway).
The plague of delays in the project include the county’s indecision over what to do with the old Sheriff’s Operations Center, an indecision that predates Cameron, but carried into his tenure. The building was sold on Cameron’s watch for a $400,000 loss plus roughly $4 to $5 million in debt the county still owes on it. Then came the prevarications over where to put the new operations center, with a site near the public library in Palm Coast emerging as definite. Or at least the county’s version of definite. That plan ended a little over a year ago and turned out to be little more than a ploy to kick the homeless out of the grounds around the library, since before long the county had decided to shift the location back to Bunnell.
With every step, additional delays piled up. So the latest 11-month addition to the delays is, to use a phrase favored by Cameron, “par for the course.”
Peaches McGee says
Nothing new here.
The county administration does want they want, how they want, when they want.
It’s a good ‘ole boy system, just like Bunnell.
Mike Cocchiola says
If I understand the issue(s), we still don’t know exactly when the entire project will be completed, and we really don’t know the true cost. So, here we go again. The County will feed Sheriff Staly’s ego to the tune of at least $20 million, and who knows, maybe $30 or $40 million. The BOCC seems not to care except to cover their ignorance by taxing our citizens.
When did Flagler County go crazy?
Art Bowles says
This has nothing to do with the Sheriffs ego, and everything to do with need and growth in the county.
Yes, it is about ego and him being in the limelight and on the front stage. He should be in a reality show. I am sad to know that the new South Library, in Bunnell has been, again, put aside. The sheriff claimed the need for expansion and actually took the property that was originally allocated for the South Library. Too many times this has happened. Does anyone know or realize that a Library in that area is a much needed commodity? Please, ask your future politicians this question, and more questions about the services a library provides, before you vote at a city or County level!
I would love to see a study done on the so called sick employees from the old operations center. It seems to have been a classic case of mass hysteria. Considering no dangerous levels of harmful mold or contaminates.
Ex Employee says
There were harmful levels of mold. Ask the sick employees. You know not which you speak.
Why would I ask the employees that I claim had mass hysteria? And no there were no harmful levels of mold in the test that were taken.
Report confirms presence of toxic mold at Flagler Ops Center https://flaglerlive.com/133776/terragon-report/
How does a 50000 SQ ft Building get years behind in Construction Are All you people asleep at the switch. 4 years in the making for this
This is a surprise? Flagler County Administration/Government have for decades shown they are inept and incapable of completing any task within any reasonable timeline and even close to being on a cost-efficient budget. They don’t care how much taxpayer money they spend. The millions upon millions of dollars of waste on this entire FCSO HQ fiasco is disgusting! I’m still baffled with why the new Ops Center was not built near the old OPS center that was built back in the Mid 90’s off of Justice Lane? Tons of undeveloped county owned land and it would keep the FCSO and the inmate facility are adjacent to each other. It worked for decades and would have ensured it remained within the County Seat of Bunnell.