County to consider turning moldy Sears building over to previous owners, seeking reimbursement

The county had threatened legal action against the former owner, broker and inspector after finding extensive water damage in the building.

The interior of the former Sears building. Photo courtesy of the Flagler County government
The interior of the former Sears building. Photo courtesy of the Flagler County government
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Flagler County commissioners will consider turning the mold-ridden Sears building on Palm Coast Parkway, purchased by the county last year as a future Sheriff's Office precinct location, back over to the previous owners — if they'll reimburse the county's costs. Commissioners will consider that option during a County Commission meeting at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18.

The county had wanted the building in part because Flagler County Sheriff's Office employees have been displaced from their Operations Center on State Road 100 in Bunnell since June 2018 due to mold problems in that structure, and have since been squeezed between the county courthouse and the jail administrative building.

But after the county bought the Sears building, county employees entered the building during a rainstorm and saw water pouring down an interior wall. Black mold covered the back side of the sheetrock. The damage was too extensive to remediate, and the sheriff said he was not willing to place his employees in the building. 

The county, at the Nov. 18 meeting, will considering seeking reimbursement for the purchase price, mitigation costs and attorney’s fees. It will also consider the possibility of selling the building directly and then seeking from the former sellers any difference between the selling price the county’s purchase price and other costs. The broker who handled the Sears building sale, Margaret Sheehan-Jones, had also handled the sale to the county of the building that became the Operations Center on S.R. 100.

After the county discovered the water intrusion problem last spring, County Attorney Al Hadeed sent letters to the former owner, broker and inspection company branch manager, notifying them that the county intended to pursue claims. 

In a letter to Sheehan-Jones, Hadeed had noted the context of the county's interest in the Sears building.

"The County does not know whether you knew of these conditions. If you did not, the County believes it was your duty under the circumstances to be aware of the suitability of the building for public governmental purposes," Hadeed wrote. "You sold the County the former hospital in Bunnell. The County constructed a new Sheriffs Operations Center on that site. Dominating the news for at least two years are the media accounts and public hearings delving into the influence of water intrusion on the health of individuals who worked in the building. ...  It is inconceivable to the County that this context would have escaped your attention."

In other business at the county meeting, commissioners will discuss longterm funding for coastline issues, and consider its legislative priorities. See the full agenda HERE.

In the city of Palm Coast City Council meeting on Nov. 19, City Council members will discuss a proposal for a new telecommunications tower near the Frieda Zamba pool, a traffic ordinance concerning commercial vehicles on residential streets, and a proposal to pay an event management company called BeMyApp $48,425 to manage the city’s proposed hackathon event in Town Center this coming January. View the agenda HERE.




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