Marion Co. sheriff requests $17M, commission skeptical

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MARION COUNTY, Fla. —

Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair says he does not have enough deputies.

He tried to convince the county commission to pay for them Tuesday.

The price tag to hire deputies and replace high mileage patrol cars is $17 million.

"It's your responsibility to make sure we keep the community safe," Blair said.

The sheriff appeared before the Marion County Commission to defend his budget request for an additional $17 million for what he calls critical needs.

Some commission members who would need to raise taxes to cover the cost would have none of it.

"I'm just going to tell you I think it's a very top-heavy organization," Marion County commissioner Carl Zalak said.

The commission looked at the details, spelled out on poster boards, which included a serious shortage at the detention center.

A closer look shows the jail needs another 40 corrections officers and 35 corrections assistants.

In fact, a couple of sections of the jail are closed because there are not enough personnel to man them.

But it did not impress some commission members who pointed out recent crime statistics.

"How can you justify asking for additional corrections officers and deputies on the road when crimes rates have been consistently going down and when we're having fewer inmates at the jail?" said Kathy Bryant with the Marion County Commission.

The sheriff said he inherited a department nearly 300 deputies short.

"The numbers speak loud and clear, that we need more deputies," Blair said.

The sheriff could appeal to the governor regarding his proposed budget, but said he has no plans to.