Plan for 3 new offices gets county’s OK
Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 6:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 6:31 p.m.
Alachua County’s supervisor of elections, property appraiser and medical examiner need new space for their operations, and the County Commission voted Tuesday to move forward with plans to give all three offices new homes.
Supervisor of Elections Pam Carpenter has been requesting additional space for years, and now the county has solid plans to get her office moved into a new location by April 2015.
The County Commission has authorized executing a lease-purchase agreement between the county and Nalbandian Properties LLC for property at 515 N. Main St. that will house both the supervisor of elections and the property appraiser’s offices.
Nalbandian Properties will do a build-out of the property, which used to be a bank, to expand it to about 40,000 square feet, Acting Assistant County Manager Michael Fay told The Sun. That will likely cost Nalbandian up to $3.5 million.
The supervisor would have over 23,000 square feet of space while the property appraiser would get around 15,000 square feet after the renovations are done.
The County Commission’s decision Tuesday to continue with this plan allows the county to put down the first month’s rent and a $150,000 security deposit for the property and to design final plans for the facility, which will come back to the board for approval, Fay said.
The county expects to lease the property beginning in April 2015 for a monthly rent of around $33,300 and then buy it in October 2015 for around $5.5 million, he said. The government plans to wait six months before buying it for budgeting reasons as well as to make sure the facility works out well.
Carpenter told the commission she was concerned about being allocated only around 23,000 square feet in the new building when the county originally began looking for a new elections office of more than 30,000 square feet back in 2007.
Although the county had looked at what other supervisors of elections are doing in terms of space, she pointed out they don’t all use the same equipment or processes.
“Some of the counties who have smaller spaces have much larger budgets because they are outsourcing services,” she said. “We can do that, but that means the budget has to go up. You can’t have a reduced amount of space and a reduced budget at the same time.”
One option to ensure her office has adequate space could be to keep using the warehouse that currently houses part of her operation.
Carpenter told The Sun she planned to work with county staff to determine whether the roughly 23,000 square feet her office would occupy in the new facility will be adequate.
“The job now is for the architect to start putting pencil to paper and start figuring out how that 23,000 square feet will function,” she said.
The Medical Examiner’s Office also needs a new home, and right now the plan is to build rather than buy.
Bruce Goldberger, director of UF Health Forensic Medicine, told The Sun that Venture Realty of North Florida is willing to build a facility that would then be leased.
The Medical Examiner’s Office, which is included under the umbrella of UF Health Forensic Medicine, would take up around 9,500 square feet while two UF labs would also use space in the future building, according to the presentation at Tuesday’s meeting.
This plan for a new facility would result in a cost increase of roughly 10 percent -- meaning a first-year increase of around $91,000 -- for Alachua County, which is the largest county within the medical examiner’s district and thus shoulders the largest proportionate share of the annual costs to the counties for medical examiner services.
“We’re very happy that the commission voted to move us to the next step,” Goldberger told The Sun.
Commissioner Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson said he visited the medical examiner’s current facility and saw “absolutely incontrovertible evidence” the office needs a new one.
The commission unanimously agreed with the recommendation of the Medical Examiner’s Office and the county manager to move forward with this plan.
The board also asked for additional information, including comparisons to other jurisdictions, regarding the county’s medical examiner costs and directed the county to seek cooperation with UF as well as legislative support for capital and operational costs to cover a portion of the cost for the medical examiner’s services.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or email@example.com.