Mark Barker: County irresponsible in handling of Old Jail

Mark Barker

Mark Barker

You may have noticed that Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen and our elected marionettes on the Dais of Power in DeLand, occupy a perennial place on my blacklist each week.

Why?

Because of their pomposity and haughty condescension toward the municipalities — and their constituents — in matters large and small.

That’s why.

Let me give you a recent example.

In early 2016, the County of Volusia and the City of DeLand — which is arguably the most progressive and best-managed community in the region — entered negotiations to swap a municipal annex currently being rented by the county for $50,000 annually, for the former Volusia County jail, a decrepit, now valueless county-owned building that occupies prime real estate in America’s best downtown.

One of the pinch points in these negotiations came when County Manager Jim Dinneen had the petty gall to demand a promise from city officials that the Old Jail “would be used for development.”

According to a February 2017 article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Dinneen arrogantly tut-tutted, “We don’t want to swap property and for them to turn it into a park. … We are really interested in creating jobs. We want to know what kind of economic development plan they have.”

Hey, Jimmy — step outside your friggin’ office.

That successful Downtown you see is what kind of an “economic development” plan DeLand has.

What an insufferable ninny.

Unless it involves handing millions in public funds to his political handlers to benefit private projects, Little Jimmy is clueless when it comes to the mechanics of actual economic-development initiatives.

Rather than provide basic preventive maintenance — even to the building’s visibly shabby exterior — in typical fashion, Mr. Dinneen has simply allowed the Old Jail to decompose.

As a result, our building has become a worthless environmental disaster that will ultimately cost the City of DeLand some $200,000 to demolish and haul off.

You read that right.

Ultimately, it’s money well-spent.

Dinneen is sitting on another publicly owned building gone to seed on his watch, while demanding “promises” from the City of DeLand before they can be allowed to repurpose the squalor that’s been holding up progress for decades?

Wow.

In keeping with their commitment to get it right, DeLand enlisted the help of a regional architectural and engineering firm to create a vision for how the property can best enhance the quaint dining and entertainment district on Georgia Avenue and beyond.

Now, the city is asking stakeholders — the citizens of DeLand — to suggest private investors and developers who would be willing to partner on the project.

(Can you recall the last time Volusia County asked our opinion on anything?) 

The fact is, Jim Dinneen and his highly paid administration didn’t have a clue what to do with the Old Jail, and those dullards we elected to represent our interests were even less inspired.

If they cared a whit about public-resource management, jobs or a viable economic-development plan, the building wouldn’t have been allowed to deteriorate into what the editor of DeLand’s hometown newspaper, The Beacon, called a “trash-strewn ghetto.”

Unbelievable? Not really.

We’ve come to expect it.

Now that he’s standing for re-election, perhaps it’s time the citizens of West Volusia ask their elected representative — “Sleepy” Pat Patterson — exactly when he plans to start representing their interests?

It’s the “vision” thing, folks. You either have it, or you don’t.

— Excerpted with permission from “Angels and A**holes for March 16, 2018” from the Barker’s View blog at www.barkersview.org. Barker, who lives in Ormond Beach, is a career law-enforcement officer and retired police chief.

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