City leans toward elections office staying put

Move would save taxpayers $3 million

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After months of debate and plans to spend millions, it seems the city is now close to just staying put with the Duval county Supervisor of Elections Office.

Channel 4's Jim Piggott has documented the problems for more than a year now with the current elections office at the Gateway Mall on the Northside.

Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland repeatedly said the building had not been kept up and the city was paying outlandish rent.

But Tuesday, the mayor's office released its report on what to do. It says leasing, not building a new site is cheaper.

The main concern with the Gateway office is a broken escalator, which has been out of service for a couple of years now.

That broken escalator (pictured, below) may actually save taxpayers $3 million.

For the last three months, the mayor's staff has been looking at options for the elections office. The debate of moving the election center from Gateway to another site forced the owner of Gateway to come up with a new lease that saves taxpayers the $3 million, plus bring improvements to the current site, like fixing the escalator.

There are other lease options as well, such as moving further north to the warehouses on Imeson Parkway. And the most expensive plan is building a brand new facility downtown.

"Our financial analysis shows that leasing an election center space is about half the cost it would be to build a new Supervisor of Elections space," said Chris Hand, of the mayor's office. "Our recommendation is to lease rather than to build."

For Holland, that makes sense. He said a lot has changed since when he first spoke about the problems at Gateway. Holland said City Council stepped in and made some positives moves.

"I am just pleased by the fact that there are many competitive leases we are looking at now," Holland said. "I think the council's action by doing their legislation has created a desire for Gateway to be more competitive, and they are heading in that direction."

Right now the recommendation is to fix up the Gateway location and keep an office open downtown. It will be up to the council to vote on the direction the city will go.

"There is clearly going to be a large savings for taxpayers," Hand said.

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