Cost estimates expected in May for facilities to be funded by county’s November referendum

The early projection is about $191 million, but county staff says it will have more exact figures after discussions with stakeholders and site work

A graphic shows the latest conceptual plan for the Public Safety Campus on Cattlemen Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A graphic shows the November 2015 conceptual plan for the Public Safety Campus on Cattlemen Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Sarasota County staff is working through stakeholder meetings and getting ready to create models of facilities in block diagrams on the sites of a new South County courthouse complex in Venice, a Public Safety Campus for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on Cattlemen Road in Sarasota and a new fleet center for the Sheriff’s Office on Laurel Road in Nokomis, the County Commission learned this week.

By May, Assistant County Administrator Steve Botelho said during the board’s Feb. 29 budget workshop, staff should have solid cost estimates ready as the effort proceeds to include the referendum on the November ballot.

Additionally, the Office of the County Attorney is reviewing the ballot language, Botelho noted, though that does not have to be provided to the Supervisor of Elections Office until August.

On Nov. 9, 2015, Public Works Director Isaac Brownman — who has been promoted to county engineer — provided what he called “highly conceptual” estimates of $105.9 million for the Public Safety Campus and $36.4 million for six new courtrooms at the R.L. Anderson Center in Venice and renovated space inside the Anderson building.

Brad Gaubatz. File photo
Brad Gaubatz. File photo

The fleet facility is planned for a county-owned parcel at the intersection of Interstate 75 and Laurel Road, Botelho said, adding that, ideally, staff and consultants will be able to create enough space on that site to put the county’s “white fleet” there as well. County spokesman Jason Bartolone explained to The Sarasota News Leader in an email that “white fleet” refers to “all the county vehicles, as opposed to the sheriff’s vehicles (green fleet). This includes our general purpose cars/vans/SUVs, specialized equipment services trucks and emergency services vehicles.”

The November 2015 estimate for the Sheriff’s Office fleet facility on its own was $24.2 million; a combined county/Sheriff’s Office facility would be $48.4 million, Brownman indicated among his preliminary figures.

During the board’s Feb. 29 budget workshop, Brad Gaubatz, the project manager in the county’s Capital Projects division, explained that staff already is planning to initiate a rezoning of one parcel on Cattlemen Road, with the expectation that could be completed by the end of the year.

However, he said staff was not certain whether to go ahead and pursue the rezoning of the Laurel Road property.

When Chair Al Maio asked whether he was talking about Government Use (GU) zoning, Gaubatz replied, “Yes, sir.”

“There is no reason, in my mind, that we shouldn’t move forward,” Maio told him, “and I cannot imagine that county-generated rezoning cannot be done in five months.”

Commissioner Christine Robinson voiced concern that it would not be appropriate to ask citizens to approve the referendum if the rezoning had not been completed in both cases. “There’s certainty that needs to occur, I think, in order to gain the support of the voters,” she added. “I agree with Commissioner Maio.”

If the rezoning were completed prior to the election, Gaubatz said, the worst-case scenario would see the county left with the two parcels zoned GU if voters did not approve the referendum.

“Which we hope doesn’t occur,” Maio responded to the latter point.

A November 2015 graphic shows the area of expansion of the R.L. Anderson Center in Venice. Image courtesy Sarasota County
A November 2015 graphic shows the area of expansion of the R.L. Anderson Center in Venice. Image courtesy Sarasota County

When Commissioner Charles Hines asked about the current status of the Laurel Road parcel, Gaubatz said he thought it was zoned for residential use. “It’s vacant,” Gaubatz added. “We just connected Honore [Road] right through the middle of it.”

Robinson also asked Gaubatz whether he had consulted with a judge in planning for the South County courthouse space.

Staff has been working with representatives of the Clerk of Court’s Office, the administrative office of the 12th Judicial Circuit, the Public Defender’s Office, the Sarasota County Bar Association and the State Attorney’s Office, Gaubatz replied. While staff has sought to include a judge in the planning, he continued, “so far, we haven’t met with the chief judge” because of timing issues.

“I’ve had at least one judge approach me, interested in having this discussion,” Robinson told Gaubatz. “I think including a judge who has served on the bench there is really important, to understand the security concerns.”

Robinson served in the State Attorney’s Office, working in South County, prior to her 2011 appointment to the County Commission.

“We would love to have their input,” Gaubatz replied.

Commissioner Christine Robinson. File photo
Commissioner Christine Robinson. File photo

“And I’m guessing there’s a second judge likely who’ll jump at the chance,” she said, adding that she would be happy to facilitate those discussions.

Botelho also told the board he had heard from Manatee County staff members, as a follow-up to a November 2015 discussion about whether a new facility for the Medical Examiner’s Office — which serves Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties — would be part of the referendum. “It doesn’t look like they can make the commitment in time,” he said.

In concluding the discussion, County Administrator Tom Harmer reported that the first printed material about the referendum — a “save-the-date” notice — will be released within the next week or so and distributed to the public. The majority of documents planned for public outreach, which will be prepared with the assistance of the county’s Communications Department, will begin appearing after the board’s May 18 budget workshop, he added.