Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office has recorded a 58-percent increase in customer traffic since its facilities took over all driver’s license transactions in late May 2015, the deputy tax collector says
Next month, as the Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office marks its first anniversary of taking over all driver’s license transactions in the county, other county staff members will be getting closer to completing the work necessary to start construction of the new Mid-County Tax Collector’s Office, which is planned on Sawyer Loop Road near Interstate 75 in Sarasota. It is set to open in 2017.
In the meantime, all that is left of renovations the County Commission approved in November 2014 for the expansion of the Tax Collector’s downtown Sarasota office are the “finishing touches,” Deputy Tax Collector Rana Moye told The Sarasota News Leader in a recent telephone interview.
The county board agreed to spend $1.2 million for the work in the Terrace Building, where the Tax Collector’s Office is located, after the Florida Legislature issued a mandate that all driver’s license issuance and renewal business had to be taken over by county tax collectors as of June 30, 2015. The Sarasota County Tax Collector’s Office shares space in the Terrace Building with the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office and the Supervisor of Elections.
The renovations included creation of a central entrance for all those divisions of county government, Moye pointed out.
Late last summer, in an interview with the News Leader, Tax Collector Barbara Ford-Coates laughingly characterized the construction underway as “massive insanity.”
“Other than the art on the walls, it’s just completely different,” Moye said of the look of things following the completion of the renovations. As of April 11, she noted that the lobby remained empty as staff decided how best to utilize that space.
This week, she talked of “a fun little celebration for the staff” that is planned next month to mark the May 26, 2015 switch of all driver’s license transactions to the Tax Collector’s Offices, including what formerly was the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles facility on Pompano Avenue near the Sarasota County Fairgrounds. The latter site is where people must go if they need to take a driving test.
The Tax Collector’s Office has recorded a 58-percent increase in driver’s license customers since it took over all that work in late May 2015, Moye told the News Leader. Although the downtown location actually saw a decrease in the number of those transactions, she noted, “this was primarily due to our South Sarasota Office beginning to process [drivers’ licenses] in April of 2015.” The South Sarasota facility is located in the West of Palmer Ranch Plaza at 8484 S. Tamiami Trail.
Moye noted that those customers previously would have been referred to the downtown Sarasota facility.
“Going forward,” she wrote in an April 21 email, “we anticipate walk-in customer traffic in the Downtown office to increase when [the Pompano facility] closes in 2017.”
After the new Mid-County Office opens, Ford-Coates has said, all driving tests will take place there.
Moye pointed out on April 21 that staff members “are working to make sure the public knows that each office now handles driver’s license transactions,” adding that that also may account for the lower impact on customer service at the downtown Sarasota location.
“The bottom line,” she wrote, “is that, as anticipated, we have seen an overall increase throughout our offices in walk-in customers from the previous year.”
The new facility
The new Mid-County Tax Collector’s Office is scheduled to open in the early winter of 2017, according to county staff. During its regular meeting on April 12, the County Commission approved a $35,459 agreement with P.J. Hayes Inc., dba Tandem Construction of Sarasota, to provide preconstruction services for the project.
The item was part of the board’s Consent Agenda during a regular meeting in Venice.
A staff memo explains that in January, county Procurement Official Ted Coyman approved the hiring of Tandem as the Construction Manager at Risk for the project. That means the firm will be responsible for overseeing all the construction work and ensuring it comes in on or below budget. Tandem was one of nine companies that submitted proposals to the county, the memo notes.
The agreement authorized last week officially will allow Tandem to work on the “design, coordination and constructability reviews, value engineering, preparation of project estimates as necessary, schedule refinement [and] bidding phase services” to produce the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) proposal for the construction of the building, an April 12 memo explains. County staff expects to return to the commission this summer with that GMP, the memo adds. If it is approved, construction will begin this fall.
In early July 2014, the commission unanimously authorized the purchase of two adjacent lots on Sawyer Loop Road, south of Clark Road, for the site of the Mid-County Tax Collector’s Office. The county purchased a 2.96-acre parcel from Culverhouse Limited Partnership for $805,000 and a 2.77-acre lot from Cheshire Hunt Inc. for $745,000. A memo provided to the County Commission in advance of that vote noted, “the properties together are large enough to accommodate future expansion beyond the current initial plan.”
Then in February 2015, the board agreed to the hiring of the Fawley Bryant firm in Lakewood Ranch for architectural and engineering design services for the project, the April 12 staff memo notes.
A press release Fawley Bryant issued earlier this month says the 10,750-square-foot Mid-County Tax Collector’s Office will feature “contemporary design concepts [that] will maximize the flexibility and convenience of services offered to the community. [It] will include a customer-friendly waiting area, a modernized queuing system and up to 24 customer service stations.”
The release continues, “Multipurpose rooms will offer flexibility for administering driver examinations and processing concealed weapons permit applications. Additionally, property, business and tourist tax payments, vehicle/vessel titles & registrations, and hunting and fishing licenses will be processed at this location.”