The Flagler County Administration seems tone-deaf to the history: It’s been a matter of months because the Flagler County Commission spanned two nightmarish older buildings out of its stock –that the Sears building on Palm Coast Parkway and the former Sheriff’s Operations Center on State Road 100.
The buys were ill-advised, costly and inefficient. They ruined the county’s standing and among these jeopardized the health of several sheriff’s personnel. Both were offered at a reduction, and also the former Sheriff’s Operations Center leaves taxpayers with about $5 million in debt to cover. A third building buy, the older Wachovia Bank away Old Kings Road, was plagued with renovation issues and cost overruns, leaving that construction still fresh.
Despite this ruinous recent background along with a toast by commissioners, one of them Dave Sullivan, the commission chairman, to steer clear of old buildings, the Flagler County Commission on Monday will hear a petition by its tourism principal to move forward with “due diligence” on the 41-year old old $1.1 million, 6,600 square foot prior Bank of America building on State Road A1A in Flagler Beach, opposite the pier.
The proposition stunned Sullivan, who wasn’t pleased with it being made public. He’s at a tight re-election race barely two weeks, with lots of already voting: some mention of this county researching still another building buy could reestablish sour tastes and price votes.
“Buying old buildings is not one of my favorite things to do as a commissioner right now in the county,” he explained as he publicly worried about a proposition tone-deaf to present conditions. “Given the situation we are in with covid-19 and all the other things going on right now, publicly I just don’t think, even if it’s the greatest deal in the world. I don’t think this is the time to be pushing off on something like this at this point. Not that it’s not a good idea. My concern is that the building has been sitting there for a long time.” He included: “I personally am not going to support a commission direction to proceed along these lines.”
Maybe recalling similar allure to urgency with preceding purchases–allure that demonstrated valuable only to the vendors, to not the county–Sullivan stated: “I can’t worry if the Bank of America decides after five years of the building sitting there, nothing happening to it or whatever, however long that was. I don’t know if our decision should be based on their urgency to sell the building.”
The tourism agency proposal, which may not have made it into the schedule without the acceptance of County Administrator Jerry Cameron (who owes his job to Sullivan), follows a lot of the identical playbook that preceded the buys of their 3 other county structures: small to no data has been submitted to county commissioners within their backup bundle. The due diligence petition is being made out of fantastic urgency since the bank seemingly has a little window as it will take bids, using a September 25 deadline. Along with the due diligence period has been introduced as nothing more than this, although in every former instance, the construction purchases were wrapped in similar rhetoric: the county wasn’t committing to anything–before, of course, the proposal’s momentum had generated an implicit devotion from that commissioners couldn’t back out. This was the situation with all the Sears building, purchased for a comparable price though commissioners needed at one stage decided they no longer wanted it. The government told them it had been too late. They couldn’t back out.
The agenda item on the commission’s program Monday is misleading: “Potential Future Visitor and Business Location Discussion.” It’s accompanied by merely a parenthetical (“submitted by Amy Lukasik, tourism director.”) No background material is contained.
In reality, since Lukasik explained it to members of the Tourist Development Council plank at a zoom assembly earlier this week, it’s not merely a general conversation about a visitor centre or its place, it’s about investigating purchasing the particular construction for $1 million or even more from this tourism budget’s capital finance, a buy which would halve the amount in that fund.
“We had to move fast in the feeling of beginning [ing] to start due diligence, which meant going in the front of the board of county commissioners to their meeting on Monday to start the conversation together,” Lukasik said. Last autumn, in pre-covid times, the tourism agency maintained a goal-setting session. Among its aims would be to have a visitor centre –a two-story construction together with the centre to the ground floor and offices on the floor. The bank construction matches the bill, Lukasik stated.
“When the Bank of America building was announced last week that they were going to open up the sealed bid process,” Lukasik said, “that obviously is a very attractive location. So what we will ask the board of county commissioners on Monday is that if we can have county administration and staff to proceed in doing our due diligence. This is not where we are seeking approval to expect any funds, this is starting the conversation and not it be a surprise as we go further down the road.” She included: “We want to take the time to gather all the information, go inside the building to see if it’s even a good fit, get with finance to run the numbers, that sort of thing.” She then talked of introducing the thing to the tourism board as though it weren’t that crucial –a sudden assertion that remembered the strategies of her predecessor, Matt Dunn, who frequently worked out the details of his suggestions using then-County Administrator Craig Coffey, minimizing what he’d gift to the tourism board, though the board is responsible for supervision.
“I just out of courtesy could have sent this in an email, but it is part of our strategic plan and I wanted to let you guys know that we’ll be asking the board to move forward with this,” Lukasik said. (In actuality, all advancements requiring funding from the tourism industry has to be accepted in recommendation sort by the tourism board, together with all the county commission ratifying the guidelines.)
Lukasik said the tourism bureau’s present offices, in the county airport, price $47,000 at lease for two,500 square feet of distance. Nevertheless, it was just a couple of years back the county government was introducing the movement to the construction at 120 Airport Road as a big win for its county. The government described the movement as providing the tourism office a new residence with bigger space, as opposed to determined by leasing distance from the chamber of trade (although the ove from the room led to the chamber’s eventual death.) The government also knew it wasn’t losing money on lease so much as profiting: because the county owns the building, lease payments from the tourism finance proved basically a transfer of public funds. (Johnny Lulgjuraj, a part of the tourism board that affirms Lukasik’s exploration of this bank construction, described the present arrangement as “spending $50,000 to throw away money every single year on rent,” instead of ” having an advantage under our county.” Actually, the present construction is a county advantage, and also the rent money stays in public hands.)
Withdrawing the bank construction from the tax rolls would also be expensive to local authorities. The building’s last tax invoice created $19,300 in taxation revenue, $5,100 of it for Flagler Beach, $8,000 for the county as well as $4,300 for your faculty board. If the county were to get it, the tax revenue could be wiped out. To put it differently, to avoid paying that $47,000 in lease, the county could refuse three government entities, itself included, recurring bucks.
Lukasik acknowledged the current history of county construction buys.
However, her suggestion drew sharp resistance from Sullivan and Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, a part of the tourism board, also out of Pam Walker, another member of this board that wasn’t, however, opposed to chasing a mere informational course on the construction.
“As it is right now I agree with the others, in this time of the pandemic I think for us go to go out and spend the money which is going to get blasted all across the news media, I think would be kind of a negative for us, the tourism department,” Walker stated, “even understanding what it is that we do. I think people would be–I know we’re going to get negative press on it, given what’s going on in the world.” She said as long as Lukasik restricted herself to obtaining advice, she’d support the thought.
Lulgjuraj saw no problem with seeking advice, particularly as an issue of encouraging Lukasik. “I don’t see if it’s part of our strategic plan why on earth would we try to block it,” he explained. “We have all agreed on this last year to start looking into things. I just want to see the information.”
“Just because this is a strategic priority doesn’t mean we have to move forward with it at any given time,” Holland stated. “It’s based on how we prioritize those strategic priorities and then how we fund the goals. Due to covid, I think the next couple of years we’re in for some interesting financial times and I think it’s going to change the landscape dramatically with how we move forward with several projects here in our community. I’d really like to see those dollars go toward additional strategic goals that will bring in visitors to our community as much as possible. A visitor center is not an attraction. It’s a place where, yes, you can gather information, and maybe in the interim we can find greater partnerships to add to that.”
Holland said the priority must be to spend funds in these matters as better sports areas or alternative tourism attractions to entice more occasions and visitors who’ll remain in local hotels–not draw a home from the tax breaks to get a visitor centre which wouldn’t in and of itself become a draw (nobody plans a holiday round visitor centres ). She was also worried about the building’s era. “I’ve been surfing at the Flagler Beach pier since I was 14 years old, and I can tell you that building has been there that long,” Holland stated. “Now, I’m not going to divulge my age, however, it’s been a long time. They’ve sustained hurricanes and everything else. I just don’t feel that this is an appropriate expenditure in the capital fund.” Holland had been 14 in 1985. The building was developed in 1979, as stated by the Flagler Property Appraiser’s site.
Nonetheless, the tourism board voted 4-2 to provide Lukasik that the go-ahead to seek out additional info, together with Holland and Sullivan opposed. Walker, Lulgjuraj, Stephen Baker and Ryan Crabb voted to approve.
However, Sullivan signaled he’d not encourage the thing once it goes before the commission. “At this point in time I just don’t see us going forward with this, although I think it’s a very good idea to have a visitor center some place in the county,” he explained. “And at this time I just think we need to be careful about going public on something like this.”