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County Commissioner George Hanns was voted chairman Monday, Nov. 18. (Photo by Shanna Fortier.)
Palm Coast Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 8 years ago

County grants historic courthouse to Bunnell

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by: Jonathan Simmons Senior Editor

The historic Flagler County courthouse will soon become Bunnell’s.

The Flagler County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to transfer the structure over to the city of Bunnell at a Monday night meeting that drew comment from both sides of the issue.

Bunnell Commissioner Jenny Crain-Brady said the courthouse, when it was open, had been Bunnell’s downtown “heartbeat.”

“The vacating of that courthouse created a vacuum, and it hit us hard,” she said. “As a citizen of Bunnell, I think it’s appropriate that that building become our city hall.”

Bunnell Chamber of Commerce Chairman Michael Barr said he felt the courthouse could “revitalize the downtown city core.”

Commissioner George Hanns spoke in favor of handing the building over, comparing it to the county’s “generosity” years ago in aiding Palm Coast when the city was established.

“We have a building that we’ve been paying for years and years to keep climate-controlled, and the city of Bunnell has a need for it,” he said. “I find that this is not much different from things that we’ve historically done for other municipalities. I’m sure the city of Bunnell will use it for years, and keep its historic integrity.”

But former Flagler County Commission member Alan Peterson asked the commission to complete a comprehensive review of potential uses for the courthouse before voting to hand it over to Bunnell.

When he was on the commission, he said, there had been talk of using the courthouse for the Sheriff’s Office, the Flagler County Historic Society, the county library or additional meeting space. Even if the county couldn’t use it, he said, it could rent it or sell it.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me to give it away to 3% when 100% of the county has paid substantial money to maintain the current building,” he said. “It’s very much like giving away your house because you don’t want to pay this year’s taxes.”

Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin asked Bunnell City Manager Larry Williams if the transfer agreement would prevent the county from using the courthouse, or its 36,399-square-foot annex, for library space or for the Historic Society.

“I don’t think that’s ruled out,” Williams said. “I think that we’re the ones who wanted to have that bullet in there that we could lease space to other entities.”

Commissioner Charles Ericksen said the courthouse opened in 1924, when most of the county’s population lived in Bunnell. “They have been paying for it in taxes all this time,” he said. “I’d be inclined to give it to them.”

Bunnell's city commission will vote on the agreement at its upcoming Monday meeting.

New chairman, vice chairman take seats

The Flagler County Commission voted unanimously at the end of Monday night’s meeting to appoint George Hanns as the board’s new chairman, replacing Nate McLaughlin.

Frank Meeker was selected as vice chairman in another unanimous vote.

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