By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Sometimes, an arrangement stays in place for so long, people may forget some of the small details that were in the original agreement.
That appears to be the case with the property where the Madison County Sheriff’s Office is now located, in the old Florida Highway Patrol Office on west Highway 90.
Many, many years ago, Madison County originally owned that property, but it deeded the land to the Florida State Board of Trustees, with the understanding that the state would open a Florida Highway Patrol Office there. According to historical records at the Florida Highway Patrol, the FHP station was constructed on the site in 1968.
The station remained in operation until about mid-2011, when FHP closed the office due to budget constraints. Ironically, shortly before the closure, the building had been renamed the James H. Fulford, Jr., Building, in honor of one of FHP’s slain troopers.
Rather than let the building sit idle, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office sought permission to move there from its downtown location. By that fall, the county had made arrangements to lease the property back from the state for a nominal fee and the MCSO was soon operating out of its new headquarters.
However, a closer examination of the original deed has revealed a long-forgotten reverter clause in that deed, stating that once the state of Florida ceased to operate a highway patrol station there, the property would revert back to Madison County.
Madison County Attorney Tommy Reeves told the county commission that, in light of the reverter clause, the state would sign a quit-claim deed for the property, officially turning ownership back over to Madison County – but first, it wanted an official statement from the county releasing it from the current lease agreement.
The commissioners voted unanimously in favor of terminating the lease.