Marion Co. needs $17M for deputy deficit, aging fleet

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. —

Based on Marion County's population, sheriff's' officials said they don't have nearly enough deputies.

"And if you do the math, we're 286 deputies behind. I asked for 20 deputies. I don't think that's unreasonable," Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair said.

Blair took the issue to the county commission, needing an additional $17 million to hire more personnel and replace an aging fleet of patrol cars.

One cruiser has 197,000 miles on it. And they're hard miles – racing to 911 calls and high speed chases.

Blair said vehicles like it need to be replaced.

"Riding in a vehicle at 100 mph, trying to get to a 911 call with 100-plus thousand miles is alarming. That deputy does not know what's going to take place," Blair said.

Not every county resident believes all the high mileage cars need to go.

"I don't see where 100,000 miles is really that big a deal. My truck has almost 300,000 miles on it," Marion County resident Vince Memoli.

A funding increase could come from a half-cent sales tax, which didn't bother residents WFTV spoke to, but bumping up property tax did.

"No. Don't raise the property tax," Marion County resident Barbara Giles said.

If the county commission refuses to come up with the funding, the sheriff is allowed to go over their heads to the governor.

Blair said he has no interest in that.

"I think we're all grownups. We need to come together and do the right thing for the community," Blair said.