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The sales tax referendums Charlotte County voters approved in years past are now being spent to accommodate the county’s population growth and harden vital facilities against future storms.

“Seven to eight years ago we were coming out of a major recession, and we didn’t see this on the horizon,” said county Commissioner Chris Constance, after listening to the county’s facilities director, Travis Perdue, discuss pending projects whose costs are higher than originally anticipated.

Perdue appeared before commissioners Feb. 27 to speak about ongoing projects funded by the 1 cent sales tax.

Along with Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Michael Casarella, Perdue provided a presentation on what the new Sheriff’s Administration Center and 911 facility will cost and look like when completed in summer 2025.

Originally budgeted for $19 million, the then-planned facility would encompass 30,000 square feet and cost $633 per square foot. Now, that projection has jumped to $45 million for a 63,000-square-foot facility at a cost of $714 per square foot, as CCSO has outgrown its space.

Commissioner Joe Tiseo questioned where the 30,000-square-foot design came from.

“If you’re telling me that the need now is 63,000 square feet, I’m not disputing that. But what does concern me is we based the budget on 30,000 square feet and I’m not hearing where that number comes from. That’s a concern,” Tiseo said. “Even at an 11% increase, which is understandable. But when you double it in size, now we’re $26 million over budget.”

Casarella said the CCSO is in Year 7 of its 10-year plan to expand and its demands and needs have drastically increased.

Commissioner Ken Doherty said the original design plan for a 30,000-square-foot facility “defies logic,” since current CCSO headquarters near the Punta Gorda Airport already exceed that size.

Perdue said he would investigate where the design plans originated.

Casarella said CCSO stakeholders, who looked at plans for a one-, two-, and three-story administration building and 911 center, said the two-story plan would be the most efficient. He vowed that the department was committed to providing the highest quality of service and the old building would become the county regional training center once the new building is completed.

One of the other projects the 2014 sales tax is funding is the new Supervisor of Elections facility expected to be completed by spring 2025.

Like the sheriff’s facility, its original cost has risen. Originally planned at $4.7 million for a 20,000-square-foot building with construction cost planned at $235 per square foot, now will cost $8.8 million and will be 21,000 square feet, at $419 per square foot.

This represents a 44% increase with $3.5 million of the cost being allocated to CCSO space where equipment, inventory and uniforms will be stored, Perdue said.

Perdue said the 44% construction increase is due to soaring prices for preengineered building components.

Both the CCSO and Supervisor of Elections buildings will be hardened to protect them from future storms.

In 2004, Hurricane Charley devastated the sheriff’s facility along Piper Road near the airport.

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