Construction contract expected to be ready for board approval early in 2019
It took less than 7 minutes on Aug. 28 for the Sarasota County Commission to listen to and comment on an update regarding the design of the Sheriff’s Support Services Facility, which is planned on Laurel Road at the intersection of Interstate 75 in Nokomis.
In February 2017, when the board members officially adopted a resolution to add the $20,880,000 project to the county’s Capital Improvement Program, they asked for periodic updates, Brad Gaubatz, the project manager in the Capital Projects Division of the Public Works Department, pointed out on Aug. 28. The design is about 60% complete, he noted. Staff anticipates appearing before the commission in early 2019 with a construction contract, he added.
During that 2017 discussion, then-Chief County Engineer Isaac Brownman explained that impact fees would cover the expense of the design work, which was expected to be completed this summer. The cost of that work was put at $1,825,337.
On Aug. 28, Gaubatz showed the commissioners a series of slides to illustrate facets of the project — now called the Sheriff’s Support Services Facility.
The county-owned parcel encompasses about 53 acres. However, because of wetlands and areas designated for floodplain compensation on the property, the project will utilize only about 12.25 acres, according to one slide.
As Gaubatz showed the board the slides reflecting the latest design work, he noted that garages to house some of the vehicles are planned along the north and west sides of the site. The administrative offices and service bays will be on the eastern portion.
A solid wall will be included, he said, on the north and west boundaries in an area where no garages are planned. Along with the structures, Gaubatz noted, “heavily landscaped” 25-foot-wide buffers will be created on the north and west sides of the site.
The design also incorporates a build-out area, if expansion of the facility is needed in the future, he pointed out.
As he showed the commissioners a rendering Atkins had produced, Gaubatz noted that the firm “has done a great job.” People have suggested that the structure resembles a school, “which I think is a compliment.” The structure could have had “just a large, barn-type shape …”
Gaubatz used another slide to show the board where the wetlands are located on the property, as well as a floodplain compensation area that was a facet of the county project to extend Honore Avenue into that part of the county.
At the conclusion of Gaubatz’s presentation, Commissioner Alan Maio told him, “You’ll make this available to people who ask, because, obviously, this acreage is not the clean slate that people have been claiming it is. All that orange area is a wetland,” Maio added, referring to the color coding used on Gaubatz’s last slide, and the purple areas are floodplains.
“The only uplands available for other purposes are the fringes around the wetland, predominantly along the I-75 right of way,” and in the corner at the intersection of I-75 and Laurel Road.
Maio, especially, has been criticized by members of the Nokomis Area Civic Association (NACA) for the commission’s decision to construct the Sheriff’s Office facility on the site at Laurel Road and I-75. Opponents of that location have contended that the county could have sold the property — with a good return — to enable construction of commercial projects that would enhance or add value to the community.
Maio is a resident of Nokomis.
On Aug. 28, Commissioner Charles Hines referenced the opposition. “I really like the way this is trending,” he told Gaubatz. “There’s some pushback by some folks in the Nokomis community. … They are afraid that this would be some ugly government building that would … ruin this area.”
However, given the rendering and the plans for landscape buffering, Hines continued, “This will really complement the area. … It is a growing area.”
Furthermore, Hines said, the location of the facility will give Sheriff’s Office personnel easy access to the interstate at the same time it will make possible “a larger law enforcement presence” in the middle part of the county.
“Thank you for what you’ve done,” he told Gaubatz. “We want to complement the area.”
Making the best use of the property
A memo Gaubatz provided the board in advance of the meeting says that Atkins North America — the consulting firm handling the design work — “was directed to evaluate alternate stormwater designs, focused on minimizing the amount of the overall parcel for the Sheriff’s facility. One component critical to site usage is the design of the stormwater retention pond. It could either be on the west side adjoining the facility, or on the east side of Honore [Avenue],” the memo noted. “An east side location would minimize the use of land on the west side,” the memo continued. “However, the cost associated with locating [the] retention [pond] on the east would be greater than the projected value of the west side real estate area it would vacate. Other factors, including earthwork/fill required, could make an east side pond location even less desirable,” the memo said. “Therefore, staff did not direct [Atkins North America] to pursue this option.”
The memo also pointed out, “Yet another determining factor in the design of the retention pond is the floodplain elevation and the amount of fill brought to the site. The higher the overall fill/elevation of the facility, the deeper and therefore smaller the pond can be.”
The memo added that county staff and representatives of Atkins considered the overall cost and benefits relating to the size of the pond and the project budget. As a result, the memo said, the “pond design utilizes most of the area between the facility and the wetland to the south. This will still need to be reviewed by [county] Planning and Development Services [staff]” and representatives of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
A Feb. 17, 2017 memo from staff to the commission explained that the existing Sheriff’s Fleet Facility, located at 425 Old Venice Road in Osprey, “is composed of multiple buildings. The main building was originally a fire station, and only two maintenance bays reside within stormproof structures. The balance of the facility consists of pre-engineered metal buildings, sheds, storage containers and canopies. While the facility is functional, it is not efficient, and is in need of extensive maintenance and improvements to meet current code and operational requirements.”