Nassau Co. sheriff appeals for new, safer facilities
Sheriff Bill Leeper hopes new building will help department better serve public
When Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper pointed out the donated double-wide trailer that houses his department's meeting room, I first thought he was kidding.
"There it is!" Leeper said excitedly as he pointed to the newest portable building sitting on his department's property on State Road 200 just east of Interstate 95.
All the offices at the Nassau County Sheriff's Office headquarters are housed inside portables; the same kind you'd find at your child's elementary school.
This "new" trailer now means the sheriff has a meeting room, and no longer has to address large groups of employees outside at the whim of the weather.
If you think that's pathetic, wait until you see the rest of the poor working conditions the nearly 200 full-time employees deal with daily.
IMAGES: Photo tour of Nassau County Sheriff's Office portables
Some of the concerns ultimately affect the Sheriff's Office's ability to help the public in an emergency.
Dispatchers are using outdated equipment which includes a headset on one ear to monitor and communicate with street officers, while answering calls for for help with what looks like a home phone held to their other ear.
Also on the list of dangerous distractions are batches of exposed wiring draped everywhere, ceilings warped by water leaks, and portable fans used to help cool the servers housing all of the department's computer traffic.
"We have weapons, we have evidence, we have records in trailers," the sheriff explained, shaking his head.
"It shouldn't be that way. It's not safe. It's not secure."
Hopefully a new building is on the way. Just last week, the Nassau County Commission passed the 2013-2014 budget which included $10 million allocated to the creation of an actual facility for the sheriff's office.
"We didn't have to raise taxes to do this," Commissioner Pat Edwards explained.
The new Sheriff's Office is slated to be built on an empty plot of land across from the Nassau County Jail.
However, even with unanimous agreement among the Commission's five members, Edwards admits there's still a chance the money for the new building could be taken away and used for other projects.
"Until we break ground and have a contract with someone, there is always going to be that opportunity," Edwards admits.
"So far it's been the consensus among the five of us that this is something the county must do," Edwards says with conviction. "We will build a new building for the sheriff."
The process is a lengthy one, beginning with retrieving a set of bid documents. Once a builder is selected, there's a groundbreaking ceremony, and other contractors are hired to work on the facility.
Edwards is hopeful physical work on the building will begin some time during this fiscal year (October 1, 2013 - 2014).
"It's hard to say at this early stage, when residents will see the finished product," Edwards says. "We'd see it at least being hereby the 2016-2017 cycle, but sooner would be better."
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