The Flagler County Government announced Thursday that construction on the parking lot in front of its Government Services Building had concluded. The completion was markedly ahead of schedule, and, per the announcement, within budget.
While the construction is now in the rearview mirror, the project will long be remembered for its tumultuous logistics. Headed up by Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron, the project was notably in full swing throughout early voting and on Election Day last month. Because of its location on the property, construction forced voters to drive the entire perimeter of the facility in order to find parking. The route was marked with directions via road sign, but many criticized the move for its interference in the voting process.
Cameron defended the route when confronted by elections supervisor Kaiti Lenhart, stating: “If they can’t understand the detour, they shouldn’t be voting.” The comment drew heavy criticism from Lenhart and members of the community. Asked about the meeting with Cameron that led to his statement, an exasperated Lenhart replied, “It wasn’t very productive to say the least”.
Another proponent of the project’s timing was Julie Murphy, spokeswoman for Flagler County. “This is along overdue project, and the county took the first viable opportunity to address the severe lack of parking at the GSB,” said Murphy on October 16th. Administrator Cameron described the road signs and designated parking spaces as “extraordinary measures to make sure voting is as easy as possible”. In an email to Lenhart defending the plans on October 15th, Cameron listed each individual instance of road signs along the route as a separate “extraordinary measure”.
On October 16th Supervisor Lenhart blasted Cameron in an email to Flagler County Commissioners, which was released independently by Flagler Live. “Say what you will about me, just don’t mess with my voters,” Lenhart said. After describing the project as contemptuous, Lenhart added, “I am ashamed that anyone in a position of authority in this county would have such a negative attitude and zero compassion for those whom they are supposed to serve.”
After many weeks of renovation and tense relations between county officials, both Lenhart and Cameron are likely happy to put the ordeal behind them.
The full statement from the Flagler County Government read as follows:
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEExpanded parking lot project at Government Services Building completed earlyDecember 3, 2020 – The expanded parking lot project at the Government Services Building is complete – ahead of schedule and within budget.Flagler County officials always knew that more parking would be required when it was built, but the money wasn’t available then. The project cost about $615,000 to complete.“This is significant, because the project has been needed for more than a decade,” said County Administrator Jerry Cameron. “Engineer Faith Alkhatib did a great job ensuring this project was completed quickly, and with as little disruption as possible.”The project scope included the following:• Demolition and modification of existing facilities and features in the existing ditch located between the Flagler County Courthouse and Government Services Building• The ditch segment was piped and filled to create 62 new parking spaces, and driving lanes with an additional driveway connection constructed within the filled ditch area• Four additional oversized, paved parking spaces were constructed near the Government Center Chiller Plant south of the Courthouse“We are very pleased with how the project turned out,” Alkhatib said. “There is now ample parking spaces for residents who have business here at the Government Services Building.”The Board of County Commissioners on Monday will meet with Administration and the Engineering Department in the new parking area about 3 p.m. (after the workshop meeting) for an informal ginger ale toast to celebrate the completion of the project.”