County Council unsure about providing $2.5 million to Pace Center for Girls for new building in Ormond Beach

Pace Center for Girls Volusia-Flagler aims to open its new $6.2 million building in 2026.

The Pace Center for Girls Volusia-Flagler is located at 208 Central Ave., formerly home to Rigby Elementary, which used to be Ormond Beach's school for Black students. Photo by Jarleene Almenas
The Pace Center for Girls Volusia-Flagler is located at 208 Central Ave., formerly home to Rigby Elementary, which used to be Ormond Beach's school for Black students. Photo by Jarleene Almenas
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A $2.5 million funding request by the Pace Center for Girls in Ormond Beach was tabled by the Volusia County Council at its meeting on Tuesday, June 18, with councilmen directing staff to bring back more information.

Pace helps girls in need in Volusia and Flagler counties to obtain an education while providing mental health support, life skills training and career and college preparation. But the school, located at 208 Central Ave., has outgrown its building, said Tekoa Pouerie, vice president of resource development for the Pace Center for Girls.

"Our Pace Volusia center is in a building that is 100 years old," Pouerie said. "We are grateful to be in the building for as long as we have, but it is not conducive to where we want to take our girls, even from a technology perspective. We can't upgrade the technology for what our girls need. It does not have the space — because currently, on any given time, we have about 20 girls wanting to enter Pace and we don't have the capacity or the space."

Pace, Pouerie said, has been able to break ground on what will become a 12,000 square-foot facility in Ormond Beach, slated to open in 2026. It will cost Pace $6.2 million.

"We know that here in Volusia County, there are more girls that need this work," Pouerie said. "There's more girls that need the mental counseling and the services that we provide."

Pace has received $2.25 million from the state for the project, and is expecting about $300,000 in an in-kind contribution from Volusia County Schools.

Pace is still negotiating with the city of Ormond Beach for support, Pouerie said.

If the Volusia County Council approves the donation to Pace, $2 million will come from the county's remaining American Rescue Plan Act dollars — funds originally set aside for a stormwater runoff project at the Volusia County landfill. The remaining $500,000 would come from Community Development Block Grant Program funds.

Volusia County Councilman Troy Kent, who asked for the item to be placed on the agenda in April, said he did so after he was approached by Maryam Ghyabi-White, a local transportation consultant who serves on the Pace Center for Girls Board of Trustees. But he said he was uncomfortable with being asked to contribute more toward the project than the state and the Volusia County School Board — both of which have bigger budgets than the county.

"You hear ARPA funds are federal funds, but guess what? They're still taxpayer dollars," Kent said. "I always need a good answer for my constituents ... and I don't have a good answer on why Volusia County is going to pay more than the state of Florida for the building."

About 97% of the girls who attend Pace Volusia-Flagler reside in Volusia County, with the majority residing in the zip codes of 32114 and 32117, both of which are part of Daytona Beach.

County Councilman Danny Robins asked if Pace had approached Daytona Beach for a partnership; Pouerie said no, but that Pace is in the process of speaking with Flagler County as well. 

Councilmen also had questions about the salary for Pace's CEO and asked leadership if they had explored becoming a public charter school. Pouerie said Pace would not be able to become a charter school without altering its program.

Some of their students, she said, have come to Pace after failing from charter schools. 

Ghyabi-White said the funding request is not one that is coming out of the blue; she had invited each of them to see the existing building's condition. The staff and Pace board have been working for months to compile data to be eligible for funds.

"We will come back ... because I won't give up," Ghyabi-White said. "But the way you're looking at it is just wrong, and you will have to live with your conscience, because you know what? Our roof might fall."

Councilman Matt Reinhart said he's seen the building — and the gymnasium where the students were displaced into. Neither are safe, he said.

"I think that these young ladies and the return of investment with these young ladies and providing them a safe structure, or at least assisting in helping them keep them safe — this building does that," Reinhart said. 


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