Jax Elections Center of problems

Building issues, unpaid taxes prompt concern

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Elections Center in Jacksonville, the hub of activity on Election Day, was built six years ago to make sure elections are fair. The city spent more than $5 million to avoid the election debacle Florida had in 2000.

Now it seems the city could be locked out of the center. A letter from the City Council president to the mayor lists a number of problems with the Gateway center, from rats, air conditioning problems, leaks and no payment of taxes by the landlord.

Many in the city say it's time to move despite the money that was spent on the center.

"It's a real concern. Are we continuing to pay taxpayer dollars wisely?" Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland said. "We invested a lot of money here and we don't own anything here either. We are only as good as our next lease. We have to continue paying over $50,000 a month a higher than market rate for something that has needs of about $2 million in repairs."

Holland pointed out some of the problems, from dangerously dark hallways to water leaks over expensive election equipment. He said the one way the public can get upstairs is now blocked off because the escalator is broken.

"We were very proud of being the only election office with an escalator, and now it's closed and it's not how you get upstairs," Holland said. "You now have to follow the signs to get upstairs, which can be very confusing."

The building is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning those with disabilities have problems getting around in it. The city pays $55,000 a month in rent, and according to the letter, the landlord owes $900,000 in taxes. Holland said there is a concern that will jeopardize an election.

"Very much a concern, not that our landlord would want to do that," he said. "We have a very respectable landlord, but for some reason the lender would foreclose on us, we would be out in the middle of an election possibly."

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