ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County is back to square one in settling on a home for the tax collector and property appraiser headquarters. It looks like they will remain in the SunTrust tower in downtown Orlando, at least for the short term.
Channel 9's Kathi Belich broke the news Wednesday that the buildings by Fashion Square Mall that had been mentioned as possible locations for the county offices are plagued with problems. The county has decided not to move into the buildings.
Orange County commissioners discussed their options at a budget meeting Thursday morning.
There was talk about a 3- to 5-year lease with the managers of the SunTrust tower, which, Belich learned, would likely cost more than $1 million a year.
But county officials have not yet ruled out a move which could cost about that much. They are also looking at whether both offices need to be at the same location.
Belich reported Wednesday that the two buildings on Maguire Boulevard, behind the mall, are filled with drywall, carpet, tile and wallpaper adhesive made with asbestos.
She reported that two drinking fountains contained, according to the county's latest inspection, higher levels of lead than recommended by the federal government.
That is all in addition to mold that county officials were told about several weeks ago.
After commissioners discussed the county's decision to call off the deal to buy the buildings, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs told Belich that it's likely the tax collector and property appraiser will keep their current location for the next few years.
She said the county is going to look a little closer at whether the two headquarters need to be together.
"Who comes to both buildings? Are people needing to go to both? What do our citizens need?" said Jacobs.
Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh said he does not believe his customers regularly also have tax collector-related business.
"The typical visitor to our office doesn't go to the tax collector; they go to the comptroller's or City Hall or to the county building, so I think we need to be in more proximity to those buildings," said Singh.
Orange County Tax Collector Scott Randolph said he agrees it's not necessary for the two offices to be headquartered at the same location.
"With technology now and the fact that these are backend offices, I think we could look at a way to separate between the offices to increase the options on the table," said Randolph. "I think if anyone were to stand in the elevators of the SunTrust tower they'd realize there's not much traffic at all to either of the offices."
The county's facility manager will give the commissioners a more detailed report on the costs, and on the pros and cons of the options they have. at this point.
Randolph, who was pushing to move next to Fashion Square Mall, said that finding a new home for his offices has not been easy.