After about an hour of discussion Tuesday, Sept. 18, Ocoee city commissioners voted unanimously to temporarily relocate the city’s Human Resources Department to the east end of the City Hall Annex.
The move is the first step in building the new City Hall. The city’s Employee Clinic currently is located at the site needed to construct the new City Hall. The clinic will be moved to the western end of the current City Hall Annex, which houses the city commission offices and HR Department, according to the agenda.
The space at the east end of the City Hall Annex will be modified to accommodate the HR Department at a cost of $18,000. Currently, the space is being leased as office space for State Rep. Kamia Brown and State Sen. Randolph Bracy. The lease — which ends Nov. 30 — will not be renewed, and there will be a loss of $24,000 in lease revenues to the city.
Prior to taking action, commissioners discussed four options for where to move the HR department. The first involved leasing a portable unit and placing it on city property at an estimated cost of $71,140. The second option involved renting commercially available space at a cost of $52,500 to $102,600. The third — and most contentious — was to purchase the property at 125 E. McKey St. at a price of $250,000 plus $10,000 in closing costs and early lease termination/possession fees totaling $25,000. The fourth — and selected — option proposed moving the department within the City Hall Annex.
The third option for the move was only made recently to the city, when the owner of the property offered to sell it to the city, Support Services Director Al Butler said.
“This (option) was attractive to us, because instead of putting money into rental space that we’ll never get back, this will be a space that we would own (and) be able to occupy for the period of time that (is) necessary for a relocation of human resources,” Butler said.
But the option raised concerns among residents of the Marion Park community. A primary concern among residents was that if the city bought the property on 125 E. McKey St., it could purchase more property in the Marion Park community.
“I realize that in the past decade or so, the city of Ocoee has been (interested in) acquiring property in our old historic community of Marion Park,” resident Tim Nielson said. “I believe option three … is a plan for acquiring more of that property guised as an option for creating a temporary home for the Human Resources Department.”
Commissioner Rosemary Wilsen shared this concern with residents.
“Your neighborhood is not the place to put our HR Department,” Wilsen said. “It’s not our place to buy. … I don’t want to see what could happen there later and that we started this. I want to maintain that neighborhood the way it is as an established, quaint residential neighborhood of folks who have lived there a long time. I don’t want to see that change.”
Another option commissioners discussed was to move HR to the eastern end of the annex and consider purchasing the property at a later date. However, after passing the gavel to Commissioner Richard Firstner, Mayor Rusty Johnson moved to remove that consideration off the table and not consider purchasing the property at 125 E. McKey St. Wilsen seconded the motion, and commissioners approved it unanimously.
“Nobody’s wanting to take away that area,” Johnson said before making his motion.
To attract a greater corporate presence to downtown Ocoee, commissioners voted unanimously to allow City Manager Robert Frank to submit a proposal letter to the St. Johns River Water Management District offering city-owned property free of charge as a potential location for a future office. The property is located at the corner of Kissimmee Avenue and McKey Street. The proposal will also include offering the free use of the Lakeshore Center, partnership opportunities relating to fleet services and expedited permitting and inspections.
“We want to bring professionals … into town,” Frank said. “As far as economic development, that’s what we want for our downtown. … We’re trying to establish downtown and help our business matrix.”
Commissioner George Oliver was absent from the meeting.