By LISA MACNEIL
Citing overall expense as the major factor, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted 4-0 to not accept an offer of a new Government Center building. Chairman Jeff Holcomb was absent from the vote held on March 12, 2019.
Chief Procurement Officer James Wunderle reported that on January 18, 2019, Hernando County administration received a confidential and unsolicited proposal in accordance with Florida Statute 255.065. Accompanying the proposal was a $25,000 fee. The title of the statute is “Public Property And Publicly Owned Buildings,” and governs Public-Private partnerships such as a private individual or group renting a building to a public sector entity, like the BOCC.
At the time, it was recommended that staff review the proposal and render a determination whether or not to accept. A committee was formed of county administration, legal, finance, budget, facilities, planning, utilities and grants, and private engineer who donated time to assist the county.
“Based on the substance of the unsolicited proposal language, and the relationship of the potential cost that would impact the county budget, and proposal requirements that could have an unfavorable direct impact on the county and its operations … Staff recommends the board’s intended decision … for a qualifying project is to reject the unsolicited proposal received by a private entity for this qualifying project identified as ‘New Government Center.’ The basis of the intended decision to reject centers around long-range cost impacts to the county as well as other concerning restrictions and impacts to the county imposed by the private entity…”
Wunderle made clear that the $25,000 check that accompanied the proposal was never deposited in order to avoid the perception of acceptance by the offering private entity.
Following the vote, certain facts could be disclosed about the offer. The proposed 100,000 square foot building is located at a still-undisclosed location in the Brooksville Tampa Regional Airport (BKV) complex. The proposed cost was $2.4 million per year with 75-year lease, with the option to purchase in full. Under the lease, there would be a 2.5% increase each year, amounting to about $60,000 in the first year. Wunderle estimated that this would result in the county paying an extra $30-million for the building.
Hernando county resident and regular BOCC meeting attendee, Richard Ross asked if there ever has been a feasibility or engineering study to expand the existing building that houses the BOCC and consider covered parking. Ross suggested that paid parking could generate revenue for the county.
Commissioner John Mitten answered that the idea has been brought up in the past and said, “With enough money, you can fix the problem.” Commissioner John Allocco added that the very expensive expansion would “bankrupt the city of Brooksville” while using all the side streets for parking during construction and essentially leaving no parking for local businesses.
Wunderle recalled that two studies estimated the cost at $117-million and $142-million.