FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – State and local leaders are very close to finalizing an agreement, which would relocate the Florida State Guard training facility to Flagler County.
News 6 obtained emails between attorneys for Flagler County and attorneys with Florida’s Department of Military Affairs, where they shared final drafts of a lease between the two entities.
The 30-year lease would be rent-free for the Florida State Guard, which would locate its training facility on part of a 62-acre site near Bunnell on Justice Lane.
“It’s great for Flagler County because of the fact that we have a multi-use training facility coming into our backyard,” Andy Dance said.
Dance serves on the Flagler County’s Board of County Commissioners.
He told News 6 even though the Guard would not pay rent under the lease, the area would still see an economic benefit.
“From time to time, the Guard will come in for training, and that will be an economic boost to the local municipalities,” he said. “We’re in the city limits of Bunnell.”
The Florida State Guard was dismantled after World War II.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, resurrected it in 2021, claiming the Florida National Guard had not supplied enough support in times of need, such as hurricanes.
News 6 investigated and found the National Guard’s own records show they have capped the number of Florida National Guard troops at 12,000 since 1958, which resulted in Florida ranking 53 out of 54 states and territories when it comes to the number of troops per capita.
News 6 first reported earlier this year that the Florida legislature approved $107.6 million for the Florida State Guard’s operating budget, an increase of more than $90 million from the prior year.
Lawmakers earmarked $10 million for the Guard to build new facilities.
Once the lease is signed, Dance said that $10 million will be invested on the site in Flagler County.
Sheriff Rick Staly was part of the team negotiating this deal.
“The National Guard, you know, builds these big monuments to themselves,” he said. “(The State Guard) wants it to be a little less in-your-face, and so, this location they felt was good. It was easy access to I-95, and State Road 100 gets you to the center of the state to I-75.”
News 6 contacted the Guard to contribute to this story, and no one responded.
Staly said the Guard will be using some of the wooded areas on the property for training, constructing new buildings and recycling some of the existing structures.
For example, a building that once housed evidence and criminal investigations for the sheriff’s office would be a classroom for the Guard.
Staly said there’s another economic advantage: the State Guard’s training complex would also be used by his first responders, as well as Putnam County’s first responders.
Dance said the lease should come up for approval by county commissioners in the coming weeks.
He said the Guard’s $10 million needs to be committed to a project by June.
Staly said given that time frame, he is hopeful dirt will be turned by the first of the year.
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