By Rachel Christian
A long-vacant Publix supermarket at the corner of U.S. Highway 192 and International Drive may become the new home for a multi-million dollar Osceola County Sheriff’s Office command center.
County Manager Don Fisher and Sheriff Russ Gibson went before the
W192 Advisory Board June 28 to secure $2 million toward the $5.8 million needed to purchase of the 49,000 square-foot building.
Gibson said the facility’s centralized location in the heart of Osceola County’s tourism district is ideal for a second command center. He emphasized the venue’s proximity to State Road 417, Interstate and Osceola Parkway, and a need for increased public safety patrolling in the area.
“To put something like this in place is something that is much needed and well over due,” said Gibson, who began looking at the property last April. “We want to create a safe space along the corridor, so millions of visitors feel safe and have a great time.”
The 5.5-acre site would accommodate 150 personnel from the Sheriff’s Office headquarters on East 192.
If the deal goes through, the new sub-station would include holding cells to process suspects and a sally port for secure transport, said Robert Holborn, general counsel for the Sheriff’s Office. No suspects would be jailed overnight though, and Holborn said the command center would be aesthetically pleasing.
A past administration explored an outpost option a decade ago, Holborn said, but the venue, located in the southwest corner of the county, is no longer viable due to new growth along West 192.
“That’s why this work from 10 years ago isn’t relevant,” he said. “They could not foresee this kind of growth.”
No one disputed the need for a new command station, but some board members questioned where the rest of the money would come from to purchase the $5.8 million site.
Fisher said he would have to gather funds from Tourist Development Taxes and other sources, including $1.5 million that was earmarked for Bus Rapid Transit on West 192.
Where other monies would come from remained unclear.
“After that, there would still be a gap and I’m not sure what that gap would be,” Fisher said. “But without the jumpstart of that $2 million, it’s a non-starter, and the county wouldn’t be able to pursue it.”
Fisher and Holborn said the Sheriff’s Office could also rent out office space to community partners like Experience Kissimmee to boost revenue and improve connectivity.
Fisher said he would seek permission from county commissioners on Monday to begin formal negotiations with the seller, Xentury City. The county could be required to seek two appraisals, he added, meaning the $5.8 million price tag could change.
The board unanimously agreed to make the project a top priority in their master plan. They also revised the 2019 budget to reallocate funds earmarked for a project to bury power lines.
If the county does eventually purchase the property, it could take up to three years before the Sheriff’s Office occupies it, Fisher said.