Osceola Sheriff wants $2M from W192 Development Authority for command center

Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson wants the W192 Development Authority to help foot the bill for a new $17 million command center to serve the booming tourism corridor.

Gibson will meet with the W192 board next week to ask for $2 million, which equates to nearly 40 percent of the development authority's Fiscal 2019 budget. 

The command center is currently in Osceola County's approved 5-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to be funded next year from the 1-cent Local Option Sales Tax proceeds. Voters approved the penny tax extension back in 1999.

The sheriff's office currently operates a small district office at the Fire Station 42 on N. Poinciana Boulevard. But in his funding request, Gibson made a case that the western district requires a larger presence due to the population growth and hotel expansions in the tourism corridor.

"An estimated 100,000 tourists reside in our tourism corridor and we no longer are seeing any seasonal patterns," the memo reads. 

Opening a 10,000-square-foot command center in the W192 area would reduce response times and improve efficiency, because criminal investigators would no longer have to commute from the headquarters on E192. An estimated 35-40 employees would be stationed there, according to the budget document.

It's unclear whether the $2 million request from the W192 Development Authority would supplant funding from the Local Option Sales Tax fund, or if would be in addition to the $17 million already tentatively allocated to the project. 

The county would need at least two acres in the tourism corridor to accommodate the building and parking requirements. Osceola County Spokesman Andrew Sullivan said the county currently does not own a site for the command center.

"Acquiring the property, design work, etc. would all come at a later point," he said.

Sheriff's Spokesman Angel Sepulveda told GrowthSpotter the agency would not answer any questions about the project before making a formal budget presentation to the Board of County Commissioners on July 16.

W192 DA Executive Director David Buchheit said he wasn't entirely clear if the request is for the command center or a separate substation on the corridor. 

"It was a verbal request," Buchheit said. "I'm meeting with the Sheriff's Office this week, and hopefully we'll have something in writing."

Buchheit said a command center or substation would be a valid expenditure for the development authority, but his board approved its 2019 budget back in April. 

"It sounds like a good project," he said. "A sheriff's substation is needed on W192. And there's a potential for us to move our offices there, but we would have to discuss it because we've already approved our budget."

The W192 DA budget included two major capital projects for 2019: updating the streetscape and landscaping near Old Town ($1.5 million) and burying utility lines in that area ($2 million). 

The utility burial has long been a priority for the development authority, and Buchheit has spent the last two years working with Duke Energy on a plan to bury the power lines. 

"The only project it would potentially impact is the undergrounding," Buchheit said. "It could push that out a year." 

The authority currently pays the salaries for three full-time code enforcement officers to work exclusively in the 15-mile district. Buchheit said the sheriff has not requested funding for any personnel, yet.

"If we ever got to that point, I would want to talk about a (special tax district)," he said. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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