The Old Court House was last occupied in September 2007.
On December 3, 2007, Strollo Architects Incorporated was engaged by Flagler County through a public selection process to make an assessment of the court house. Their tasks were to (1) perform an overall building analysis to determine the current condition of the facility and identify system, structure and envelope problems, (2) identify issues in the context of the future of the building (preservation, remediation, redevelopment or demolition, (3) investigate potential tenant occupancy, (4) conduct a Charrette with government and community, (5) develop solutions and budget and (6 present a final report.
Strollo completed its tasks and presented a charette on January 23, 2008, to the county commission and public which was poorly attended. On August 4, 2008, an assessment of options for the court house and annex were presented to the county commission. Of the several recommendations presented, mothballing the buildings seemed the best option due to financial conditions. In November 2008, the county commission agreed to an additional evaluation, termite treatment and roof repair for the older part of the building.
A Court House Restoration Committee was appointed in March 2009. The committee recommended that necessary repairs to preserve the building should be done. Historic designation was postponed for the time being.
Use of the building as headquarters for the sheriff was a possibility; however, this plan would not have been feasible because of security concerns. At this time the former Bunnelll Hospital building was purchased as a building more suitable for the sheriff’s use.
The City of Bunnell had outgrown its space in the Civic Center on Church Street and had offices in the Government Services Building and other places in Bunnell. The city was offered the building as its headquarters. The older part of the building might house the branch library and other organizations needing space. And the Old Court House still sat vacant.
In November 2013 an interlocal agreement was made with the city transferring the property to the City of Bunnell to maintain and preserve the historic court house façade and to become its property. Not long afterward, the city had a monetary crisis and could not fulfill its part of the bargain and therefore returned the court house to the county.
The BCC formed an Ad Hoc Committee in June 2014 to study and evaluate the future of the Historic Court House and Annex. The committee would sunset in November 2014, but this date was extended to March 2015. After a tour of the facility, the committee discovered the building’s condition was very good and eventually decided that a use could be found for the building.
An open house was held on August 8, 2014. Seventy-three individuals attended and were pleased with their tour of the building. After several meetings, the committee agreed the building should be saved and recommended this to the BCC. The board authorized soliciting bids for use of the building.
At the committee’s January 20 meeting, Pastor Kevin Lauter of the First Baptist Christian Academy was introduced. The group is interested in using the building for its school which has outgrown its present building in Palm Coast. Eventually an agreement was reached stating that the school would pay for converting the building into classrooms etc., and the county would pay for improvements (elevators, windows). $375,000 is to be repaid by the tenant in ten years.
All is all it’s a good solution. The historic building will still belong to the county, the City of Bunnell will benefit from new visitors and business, and the lights are once more glowing in windows of the Old Flagler County Court House.