County administration has rejected a proposal to use Roma Court as the location of the Sheriff’s Office operations headquarters, calling the property “unworkable.”
The offer came earlier this month, about a week after the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners approved the purchase of the old Memorial Hospital in Bunnell, which will be rehabilitated and then used, in part, to house sheriff’s operations. Doing so will cost an estimated $6.075 million.
The owner of Roma Court, a complex on Palm Coast Parkway, has offered to lease 30,000 square feet of the building to the county at a cost of $5.25 million over 15 years. At that time, the owner would donate those 30,000 square feet to the county.
Roma Court was recently purchased for $1.55 million by John C. Bills Properties LLC, a company that is also currently in the process of purchasing the City Marketplace plaza. Jerry Masiello, broker/owner of Landmark Commercial Realty, offered the property on the owners’ behalf.
County Administrator Craig Coffey responded to the offer this week, citing 10 issues with the property that make it unsuitable for use as the operations headquarters for the sheriff.
First, Coffey said, using Roma Court wouldn’t be in the best interest of the public’s safety because the property would also be leased to local businesses.
“The difficulties associated with the various uses of the entire site, compounded with law enforcement responding to emergencies and assisting during a declared emergency, or even critical fast responses will be the biggest single challenge,” Coffey wrote in a letter.
In response, Masiello cited a crime report showing that many of the calls the Sheriff’s Office responds to are centralized in Palm Coast, near Roma Court, so locating the sheriff in that area would be an asset to public safety, he said. In addition, Masiello said other parts of the Sheriff’s Office are located in shopping centers — including the substation at City Marketplace.
Secondly, Coffey said, it would not be practical to move certain things — like an impound facility and a communications tower — to a location the county is renting.
“By ordinance, the city of Palm Coast prohibits barbed wire, has screening issues with outside storage, heavily regulates signage and may not allow a 150-foot antenna,” Coffey wrote.
Masiello said that he has never known a municipality that would not work with a public safety agency to meet its needs.
Also included in Coffey’s list of concerns was security, because locating the office so close to businesses would create a difficult intermingling of the public and law enforcement, Coffey said. Masiello said that the building could be made secure by changing elevator access.
Also, Coffey said, “the Roma Court property would be subject to both city of Palm Coast and Flagler County taxes, which would not apply to a county-owned site.”
If the county leased its space, the owner would need to provide insurance, which would “likely be at a much higher rate than what the county pays for insurance of its facilities,” Coffey said. And, he said, costs such as maintenance and landscaping would roll into other county departments, curbing the costs.
In response, Masiello criticized the county for leaving operational cost expenses out of its original hospital proposal, and, Masiello said, not considering the interest on the loan the county is taking to purchase the old hospital.
Coffey also said that while the Roma Court facility may be cheaper now, it might cost more money in the future if the Sheriff’s Office needs to expand, because Roma Court is on a four-acre parcel. However, Masiello said, there is a 10-acre parcel for sale next to Roma Court that the county could use for expansion if needed.
Because the County Commission already voted to move forward on the hospital purchase, Coffey said, that is the direction he and his staff need to take, so the proposal is a moot point.
The county is set to close on the purchase of the old hospital next month.