Water district breaks ground on service center to be built in Apopka

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The groundbreaking for a new 17,154 square-foot St. Johns River Water Management District service center in Apopka was held Monday, February 8, on Binion Road, just north of Magnolia Park.

Past and present local elected officials, and the SJRWMD Board of Governors were among the people who attended the groundbreaking ceremony on vacant property at 2501 S. Binion Road in Apopka, where the new service center will be built. The building is due for an April 2022 completion and the Apopka Service Center will be within the vicinity of one of its major restoration projects, the Lake Apopka North Shore.

“This is indeed a big, big day. It was very important to me that some of our former board members and those of you in the audience who were instrumental in the early days come and celebrate this milestone with us,” said Dr. Ann Shortelle, St. Johns District executive director.

The Apopka Service Center will reflect SJRWMD’s effort to meet its staff’s workspace needs while saving money in building and owning the center instead of leasing space, which has been the case for nearly 35 years.

The $6.4-million cost for the project’s phase two is the guaranteed maximum price and includes final design, permitting, construction and project completion, and post-construction tasks including testing, commissioning, training and support. The funding source is from the water district’s committed fund balance, according to the district’s December 8, 2020, meeting agenda packet.

Phase one services of the Apopka Service Center consisted of engineering, geotechnical investigations, existing conditions investigation and verifications, 60 percent of design development, and preparation of a guaranteed maximum price and schedule. Phase one services were completed and delivered in November 2020.

With the district leasing space in the Greater Orlando area since 1986, the Apopka location allows district staff to work with local customers and stakeholders on a variety of matters, including regulatory permitting. It is also used for a variety of collaborative meetings, outreach and training events, workshops and serves as a data disaster recovery center.

In August 2010, the SJRWMD entered a 10-year lease for the service center’s current location at 601 S. Lake Destiny Rd., Maitland, which includes 21,312 square feet of office space. The lease began on October 1, 2011, and expires on September 30.

The SJRWMD staff negotiated a release of 2,625 square feet effective April 17, 2020, which provided a savings of about $101,128 over the remainder of the lease. The base rent plus the district’s proportionate share of the facility’s operating expenses for fiscal year 2019-2020 was $467,308. The 2020-2021 fiscal year cost is approximately $458,246 and the cost of the entire leasing period is an estimated $4,165,000.

The SJRWMD staff has worked closely with the governing board since 2017 to evaluate leasing versus owning/building a service center on district-owned land. In March 2019, the governing board approved a five-acre parcel on South Binion Road in Apopka as the site for a District Service Center and exercised a no-cost land swap option for acquisition with the city of Apopka.

In May 2019, the district closed on the South Binion Road property.

In a letter from The Collage Companies to St. Johns District Office Director Dave Dickens, the Apopka Service Center project “would have a short-term benefit of supporting over 100 jobs, a significant regional impact.”

The story can be read in full beginning on page 1A of the Friday, February 12, issue of The Apopka Chief. The Apopka Chief and The Planter are weekly community newspapers, independently owned and family operated, that have served the greater Apopka area in Central Florida since 1923 and 1965 respectively. Subscribe today!