JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Duval County Elections Center at Gateway houses much of the elections office operations, but the 50,000-square-foot location needs repairs and costs taxpayers $51,000 a month in rent, according to Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland.
"My employees have endured a lot to make elections work, but you're paying top dollar for it and that's the part that's just not right."
The building was purchased by Terranova Corporation last year, and on Thursday evening, the company submitted a new, 10-year lease proposal to Holland. In it, the owners agreed to invest $495,000 in the property to upgrade the HVAC system, install a new escalator and more, as well as cut the monthly rent to $24,958.33 a month. Holland says that adjustment could save taxpayers nearly $300,000 a year. The proposal would increase rent by 3 percent each year after.
"This may not be the best numbers, but it's very encouraging where it is versus where it has been."
Right now, the Jacksonville City Council Rules and Finance Committee is reviewing legislation to consider other options, such as moving or rebuilding on city property. It's that action that Holland believes prompted the new offer from Terranova.
"Gateway can work if they fix everything, and its a competitive lease, and if it's the best numbers we can work there, but we need all the facts."
Holland believes council should continue with the legislation to review all options before making any commitments. A decision by the Rules and Finance Committee is expected next week, and it could then advance to the full Council for consideration.
"Go forward with legislation, and let's get all the facts. Just by introducing it and moving on, it has already gotten is considerable savings. In reality we may see even more savings, but we won't know that until we get all the facts."
Councilman Clay Yarborough tells Action News he does not believe the offer will have any effect on the legislation.
"I do not believe it will have a negative effect because we need to have all the options on the table for consideration."
Action News did share the offer with the Mayor's staff who says they will review the offer when they recieve it from Holland, and "will review it closely to see if it saves taxpayer dollars." They add, "Mayor Brown is committed to saving money for hard-working taxpayers. The Mayor continues to oppose the proposal to build a new, $6 to $8 million government building for the Supervisor of Elections Office in Downtown Jacksonville."
Action News is told the previous lease for the Gateway center did not include an owner agreement to make ongoing improvements. Holland says that could be an option in a new lease.