Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sheriff's Plan Adds 50 Deputies

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sheriff's Plan Adds 50 Deputies

Article excerpt

Thousands of people move to new subdivisions in Clay County every year where there used to be only woodlands and farmland, rapidly turning rural Clay into one suburban community after another.

And that means one thing to Sheriff Scott Lancaster:

Additional deputies must be hired to keep up with a growing populace they're sworn to protect, particularly in high-growth areas like Fleming Island.

"Clay County is a safe county. Our concern is we need to keep it safe," Lancaster told three county commissioners Thursday. "Unless a wall is put up at the county line, we're going to have to put more officers on the streets."

Lancaster proposed hiring 50 additional deputies over the next three years.

The good news, the sheriff told members of the Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee, is that federal grant money is available to help fund salaries of new "community-oriented policing officers" at $25,000 per officer for the next three years.

The county still would have to provide employee benefits, uniforms, guns and patrol cars. And after the grant money runs out at the end of three years, the county would have to start funding 100 percent of the salaries.

The federal grant would provide $1.2 million for the new positions.

Commissioners agreed to recommended the full commission adopt a resolution on July 13 supporting the sheriff's grant application, which must be submitted to the U.S. Justice Department by July 16.

"It's a good deal for three years, but I'm worried about the fourth year," said Commissioner Dale Wilson, chairman of the committee.

Lancaster said he would need additional officers whether the federal government helped fund the positions or not. It's in the county's best interest to take advantage of the grant while it's available, he said.

Commissioner Pat McGovern said he didn't see much choice. …

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