200-deputy shortage, aging fleet beleaguer Marion County sheriff

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Marion County's new sheriff is worried that past budget cuts have put his deputies, and the residents he was elected to protect, in danger.

Only Channel 9's Berndt Petersen got his hands on a report Sheriff Chris Blair has given to county leaders that asks for a five-year plan.

In the report, Blair writes he has a shortage of 200 deputies.

Blair said 86 percent of his department's vehicles are from 2008 or older, and 72 percent of the patrol cars have more than 100,000 miles.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office runs its own auto garage to keep its fleet of patrol cars on the road.

Blair said those cars need to be replaced and his patrol division and jail are short-staffed compared to other sheriff's offices across the state after factoring in each county's population.

If the county were hit by a hurricane or tornado, the sheriff said he has enough emergency money in the bank to cover overtime for one day.

"Certainly, I don't expect this to happen over one year or even two years. However, I do have to start somewhere, and I do have to address these major issues," Blair said.

The sheriff will ask the county commission for more funding. The budget work gets underway this summer.