Bunnell wants courthouse as City Hall

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  • | 4:00 a.m. May 12, 2012
  • Palm Coast Observer
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Bunnell officials have offered $1.5 million for construction of a new City Hall in the building.

Bunnell officials said they have a loan for $1.5 million, which they intend to use for construction of a new City Hall inside the historic courthouse, on State Road 100, according to a workshop presentation Wednesday, May 9, to the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners.

The commission will meet with Bunnell again this month to finalize a deal.

Renovations to the currently vacant courthouse, built in 1926, have been a long-standing item on the county’s budget agenda. Combined with the connected 36,399-square-foot annex, which is meant as the sheriff’s new headquarters, the county has invested a total of $564,004 in the building’s inspection, design and repair since 2007.

To complete the annex, which was built in 1982, future construction costs are set at approximately $3.9 million. To cut down on costs, commissioners also suggested refurbishing only select floors of the annex.

“These are completely separate spaces,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said of the courthouse and annex. As part of the sheriff’s agreement, each building had to be segregated: separate heating/cooling systems, elevators, everything. The sheriff and county staff have also collaborated the past about eight months on design and logistics of the space, which is about 40% the size of the Government Services Building.

Moving into the annex would more than double the sheriff’s current space, as well, which is rented for about $60,000 monthly on Justice Lane and elsewhere.

“We’re trying to think long-term growth,” Coffey said. “(The annex) should serve him quite a few years.”

As for the courthouse, Bunnell recently secured a $1.5 million loan from Intracoastal Bank, to cover $100,000 in design and $1.4 million in construction.

According to Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez, the city is not moving in “to renovate a courthouse — they’re going in there to build a City Hall.” However, he said, it would be a “fatal error” not to preserve the historic elements of the place (like the wooden staircase and exterior façade).

“We want it to be a showcase,” Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson said. “We’re looking to revitalize downtown. … We want (the courthouse) to be a Mecca for the city of Bunnell. We want it to be beautiful … something that the whole county can be proud of.”

Included in the revitalization plan are historical displays in the front lobby (Bunnell officials recently found the books from the city’s first commission meeting, Martinez added). There are also plans to redevelop streets around the courthouse into one-way roads, with extra parking and “streetscapes.”

The county would be responsible for all renovations in the annex, while Bunnell would be responsible for those in the courthouse. Similar to the agreement the county has with the School Board in the Government Services Building, Bunnell would operate the space like a condominium. The city would pay for its part of the building, and its furniture, but unlike the School Board, Bunnell would pay its own utilities.

After its next meeting with Bunnell, county staff will start on obtaining actual figures for refurbishment of the courthouse’s exterior brick.

“Counties that preserve their history preserve a value for their future community,” said County Commissioner Milissa Holland.

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