Bond issuance plans for new County Administration Center revised, with amount rising to $29 million

New resolution calls for part of money to be used for construction of facility containing new data center and employee health center

This graphic shows the Southwest Quad, where the new EIT data center/employee health facility will be constructed. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Although the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously on Jan. 31 to approve the issuance of $28 million in bonds to help pay for the new County Administration Center near the Celery Fields, the issuance of the bonds was delayed because “sufficient initial cash funding” for the project was available, a county staff memo in the board’s Oct. 10 agenda packet explained.

The delay also allowed the staff of the Office of Financial Management “to determine how long-term interest rates would develop during Fiscal Year 2023,” the memo added.

That fiscal year just ended on Sept. 30.

The funding budget for the project “has been firmed up (although not finalized at this time),” the Oct. 10 memo continued, “and additional sources of funding for the [initiative] have been secured,” primarily cash and impact fees, the memo pointed out.

Thus, the amount of the bonds has been decreased, the Oct. 10 memo said.

Earlier this year, county staff indicated that the new Administration Center could cost up to approximately $77 million. The commissioners and members of staff broke ground for it on Sept. 28; its completion is anticipated before December 2025.

Because of the delay in issuing the bonds, the Oct. 10 memo added, “another project, the Enterprise Information Technology (EIT) data center and the Employee Health Center (EHC) project, which requires borrowed funds for construction,” also could be included in the use of the bond revenue.

As The Sarasota News Leader reported in May 2022, the commissioners voted unanimously that month to appropriate $3,325,320 to the design and construction of the EIT facility, which will include the Employee Health Center. That building will be located on the Southwest Quad, which also is near the Celery Fields in the eastern part of the county. The Southwest Quad is bordered by Apex Road and Palmer Boulevard.

A document in the May 24, 2022 meeting agenda packet said that the EIT building would comprise “approximately 14,000 gross square feet of offices, approximately 5,500 [square feet] of data center and approximately 6,000 [square feet] of chiller/generator yard. The Employee Health Facility is anticipated to be approximately 6,000 [square feet,] including offices, exam rooms, screening areas and associated functions. The EIT components will be operationally separate from the Employee Health facility.”

The EIT data center/Employee Health Center is expected to be completed by early 2025, the memo noted, with occupancy anticipated by the summer of 2025.

This is the cover of the February 2022 edition of the Sarasota County Charter. Image courtesy of Karen Rushing, clerk of the Circuit Court and county comptroller

Since staff is ready to issue the bonds, the memo continued, staff was asking the commissioners to approve a modification of the existing bond resolution to increase the amount, “but not in excess of the [limit provided in the Sarasota County Charter],” and to expand the original project.

That Charter limit, as of Oct. 1, is $29,028,126, a county document pointed out. That limit cannot be exceeded without voter approval, according to the relevant section of the Charter. The new resolution calls for the amount of the bonds not to exceed $29 million.

The bonds “are expected to be issued with an amortization period of 20 to 30 years,” the memo continued. The security for them is the county’s Half-Cent Sales Tax revenue, the memo added.

The annual debt service is expected to average between $2 million and $2.2 million, the memo said, with an anticipated total interest cost of about 4.5%, “but less than 5.50% (the maximum allowed under the resolution).”

If the commissioners approved the new resolution, the memo added, the closing on the bonds would occur by mid-November.

With their approval of their Oct. 10 Consent Agenda of routine business matters, the commissioners did agree to the revised resolution. As is typical with the Consent Agenda votes, none of the board members commented on that item.