By GREG GILES
Clouds and light drizzle didn’t dampen spirits at Monday morning’s groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of construction of the new Sarasota County Sheriff’s support services facility in Nokomis.
Sheriff Tom Knight thanked a crowd huddled under a tent, some wearing rubber boots, on the site located at 16501 Honore Avenue near the Laurel Road I-75 interchange.
County Commissioners Charles Hines and Al Maio spoke before a crowd of about 50 people at the 20 minute ceremony.
The rain reminded Knight of the angst he felt in late 2017 when Hurricane Irma hit, knowing he had over $8 million in vehicles and other assets in a facility that might not withstand hurricane force winds. The new facility is designed to withstand 160 mph winds.
“I can recall the concern we felt during Hurricane Irma when our vehicles and equipment were exposed to the elements. I now feel confident knowing that with a safer and sturdier facility, we will be able to even better protect and maintain the equipment that services residents and visitors of Sarasota County, especially during times of crisis and disaster,” Knight said.
While there was some initial minor concern over the location of the facility, the Sarasota County Commission was unwavering in its support.
“Standing here today, I know we made the right decision and right place for this facility,” Commissioner Hines said. “Today’s groundbreaking is just another example of our successful collaboration and will serve our men and women in uniform for years to come.”
Commissioner Maio noted half the deputies on the force live south and half live north of where they were standing.
“It’s perfect,” he said of the location. The cramped conditions at the old facility on Old Venice Road in Osprey, he said, made him gag.
“This looks like a school, and it will not hurt anyone’s sensibilities,” Maio said.
The new maintenance shop, a 42,650 square-foot building, keeps 550 patrol vehicles and another 100 specialty vehicles running. In addition to housing the agency’s fleet services and radio maintenance sections, it will have room for vehicle and property storage.
The main building will include 12 maintenance bays, six radio shop bays, administrative areas, and a combination training and break room. An ancillary vehicle storage building, 13,764-square feet, will be used to store specialty vehicles, according to a Sheriff’s Office fact sheet. A separate 11,551-square-foot property storage area will be enclosed by chain-link fencing and covered by a metal roof.
The project was approved through a series of unanimous votes by the Sarasota County Commission in 2017. The new facility is expected to be complete by late 2020.