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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 8, 2021 1 year ago

Commission, Sheriff eye same property for expansion

County commissioners and Sheriff Kurt Hoffman are interested in 1301 Cattlmen Road as a future expansion site.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

One parcel of county-owned property has become a topic of debate between two of the county’s largest entities as both want it for future expansion.

Sarasota County commissioners and Sheriff Kurt Hoffman both highlighted 1301 Cattlemen Road as a potential spot for development.

Commissioners highlighted the land as a future site for the county administration building while Hoffman said the parcel, which has easy access to Interstate 75, could serve as a public safety complex.

In 2013 then-Sheriff Tom Knight asked the County Commission to provide adequate space for law enforcement services. A report at the time showed the department had about 52% of the space it needed to function properly.

Commissioners eventually agreed to a planning process for a public safety campus on the 1301 Cattlemen Road property, which sits next to the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

However, as construction costs for the campus grew to $200 million, the county would have had to seek a referendum vote for the project. Knight withdrew his support, and the county followed suit.

In February 2017, the county instead authorized $15.8 million be used for a new Sheriff’s Office headquarters at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd., which allowed the department to relocate its administrative offices, forensic lab and evidence storage.

However, appearing at a March 24 budget meeting, Hoffman said the Cattleridge structure is not large enough to accommodate the department’s needs. The old structure was about 193,980 square feet while the Cattleridge structure is about 72,000 square feet.

Commissioners suggested using the two parcels adjacent to the headquarters to expand, but Hoffman said he was told the stormwater retention pond in the area lacked the capacity to build a large enough complex.

Hoffman requested the board consider adopting a resolution to add the safety complex as a project within the county’s 2021 Capital Improvement Program and including $2 million in the county’s 2022 Capital Improvement Program for design and permitting work for the project.

“We’re very appreciative of what the county has done for us thus far,” Hoffman said. “But in the grand scheme of things, we’re still in dire circumstances as it relates to space.”

However, Hoffman’s presentation came just hours after the commission discussed the Cattlemen Road property as a potential site for a new county administration center.

“We might have to arm wrestle you for the property,” Commissioner Nancy Detert said.

Consultants hired by the county last year showed that to accommodate growth, the county would need to sell its current administration center at 1660 Ringling Blvd. The building was constructed in 1973 and over the course of the next 20 years would need about $49 million in renovations.

Commissioners in June 2020 began seriously considering two potential Cattlemen Road sites with 1301 Cattlemen Road emerging as the favorite because of its lower $50 million price point. 

Aside from the obvious conflict of competing for the property, commissioners feared that the new sheriff’s complex would cost more than $100 million in a year they had planned to spend recovering from COVID-19 costs.

The project will likely exceed the county’s charter cap of $24.5 million, and board members offered several suggestions, including seeking a voter referendum in November 2022.

Commissioner Mike Moran said the sheriff’s office could potentially use the 17,483 square feet of unfinished space planned in the second floor of the planned District 12 Medical Examiner’s Office. The project is expected to be complete in January 2023 and commissioners agreed it could help in the short term. 

Chair Al Maio suggested the county move its administration center to the Cattleridge property and allow the Sheriff’s Office to have the Cattlemen Road property. Detert said it could consider moving into the county’s current building on Ringling Boulevard to be near the jail and courts.

“Has anyone looked at giving you this building?” she asked Hoffman. “It might be worth the maintenance fees.”

Although no immediate solutions were presented, commissioners said they would revisit the topic during their May budget workshop, which is centered around the Capital Improvement Program for fiscal year 2022.

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