Elections office landlord cuts lease cost in half

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the city discusses moving the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office out of expensive, leased space on the Northside, the landlord has drastically cut the price.

Jacksonville currently pays $51,000 per month to lease space for the elections office and warehouse at Gateway Mall. Over the last six years, the lease has cost the city $4.9 million.

Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland has asked that the city build a new office on city-owned land in LaVilla to avoid continue leasing the warehouse space.  Mayor Alvin Brown and some City Council members have suggested using existing city-owned space, but because of security and access issues, Holland says those facilities are unacceptable.

"My job here is to make sure every time we do an election, we do a better job of it, and to make sure when we leave here, we've got the most efficient operation and at the lowest cost we can do it for taxpayers," Holland said.

After the city put out a request for proposals for an alternative to Gateway space earlier this month, the landlord that brought Gateway out of bankruptcy cut the lease price in half if the city signs a 10-year contract. That price includes $450,000 in renovations, including a new air conditioning system, installing escalators and refurbishing the elevator.

City Councilman John Crescimbeni said he likes the possibility of saving money on the lease, but Holland wants to continue the process already underway to see if a new building would be a better deal for the city in the long run.

"Right now we need to continue with the legislation the council's looking at," Holland said. "See what it costs to build a building; see what it costs for other leases; then make an informed decision when we've got all the numbers."

That attitude puzzles Crescimbeni.

"We've spent a lot of money, not just on rent, but millions on renovations, and we've only been there six years," Crescimbeni said. "Now he wants to do something different. I find that a little bit upsetting."

The matter is expected to be discussed at the City Council Rules Committee meeting early next week.

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