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Public Defender, Conservation Offices Moving to Train Depot

Photo by Lydia Berglar – Ted Rumley and Don Townsend look at the new windows, which were installed as part of the old train depot renovation.

News Editor

The Dade County government is in the midst of four building and renovation projects: the old courthouse renovation, train depot renovation, animal shelter construction, and elections office construction. The Sentinel met with Ted Rumley (county executive) and Don Townsend (CFO and county clerk) to get an update on the train depot renovation and old courthouse renovation.

See the December 13th issue of the Sentinel for the latest news about the elections office, check back next week for the latest on the courthouse renovation, and at this time, there is no significant update on the animal shelter.

Rumley reported that the windows have been installed in the depot and construction has begun on the interior walls. When Rumley and Townsend showed the depot to the Sentinel on December 2nd, the framing was completed. Rumley anticipates completion of the project early this spring.

Rumley reported that a December 29th meeting with Jad Johnson (public defender) finalized the floor plan. Johnson and the public defense team will use the majority of the space, and the Soil and Conservation Office (Stephen Bontekoe and his team) will have an office in the northeast corner with a separate entrance.

There is one more small office in the northwest corner that will have a separate entrance, but the county has not yet decided how to use this space.

Once the depot is completed and the two teams have moved in, the public defender’s current office (129 Case Avenue) will be auctioned off. Proceeds from this auction will go to the county’s building fund. Rumley and Townsend noted that this will recoup expenses for the train depot and add cushion to some of the other building projects’ funds.

Photo by Lydia Berglar – Early in January, the county finalized the floor plan for the depot’s interior and completed the wall framing.

Bontekoe’s current office in the Dade County Administrative Building will become a multi-use office for the county. When the auditors visit the county, they typically set up in the small conference room in the administrative building for several weeks, but they will soon be able to use Bontekoe’s office instead.

The budget for the depot renovation is about $137,000, with $100,000 coming from insurance money resulting from the fire. Readers may recall that an arsonist set fire to the building on September 1st, 2021 after the county had begun renovation of the building. (At that time, the commission hoped to move the elections office into the depot.)

Rumley said, “We could’ve settled for $100,000 and not fixed it, but we saw that we could fix it. Structurally, it’s a good building; it was built to hold freight. It was deceiving looking from the bottom up. Once we got lighting up there, we could see that the [fire damage was not extensive].”

Rumley reported that a suspect in this arson case was apprehended, but the district’s attorney has not moved forward with the case. The Sentinel contacted District Attorney Clay Fuller but has not received a response as of press time.

Rumley reported that the county was able to remove, restore, and reinstall the roof. “There’s nothing wrong with it. It looked like there was, and you think, ‘How could it have got so hot [in the fire] and not damage it?’ but it didn’t. The fire department was right on it or it would’ve burned to the ground.”

Because the depot is one of our local buildings that has some historical value and appeal, the county was eager to salvage it. Townsend said, “We didn’t want to tear it down if we didn’t have to.” With only $37,000 needed in addition to the insurance money, they deemed the renovation financially feasible.

Rumley concluded, “We just want to get it finished, get it occupied, get [the brick building] on the market. It’ll be good to have some life in the old depot again.”

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