Sheriff: $180M needed over 20 years as St. Johns County grows

By Kumasi Aaron - Reporter/The Morning Show anchor

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - When it comes to keeping St. Johns County residents safe with a rising population, it could cost millions.

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar has pointed out his department will need $180 million over the next 20 years.

"The sheriff is being proactive and looking forward from 20 years from today," Sheriff's Office spokesman Chuck Mulligan said. "So that figure that you're looking at is where we need to be in 20 years. That's not a request for monies today."

The sheriff presented his plan to county administrators in a workshop Tuesday with five other department heads. For the sheriff, it was about improving some of the things at headquarters, the jail, office and the communication center.

Bill Stalcup, who's called St. Johns County home for nearly two decades, supports the sheriff's plan.

"It's come a long way since from the past 20 years from what I can see, and 20 years from now I can only see it getting bigger and better," Stalcup said.

He's not the only one seeing more in the county's future. The Sheriff's Office expects the population to keep growing over the next 20 years, which calls for increased funds.

"I guess it's important," Stalcup said. "I don't want the crime rate to go any higher than it is. I like the comfort we have here in St. Augustine, and I'm sure they have to do what it takes to keep it this way."

The Sheriff's Office said the growing population would mean more people in jail and, in turn, more employees working for the department.

So the sheriff told county leaders he'd like to see $88 million to expand the jail, $30 million for a central command center or the office, and $15 million for a new training facility, the agency's first priority.

"Law enforcement, especially with litigation issues in today's society, we have to remain trained to the highest possible levels," Mulligan said. "That includes having a driving track. That's a lot of asphalt. It's certainly a great deal of money. We also have to have a firing range."

Right now the Sheriff's Office rents a facility from the School Board, so it would have to find land, buy it, then build the facility.

The Sheriff's Office would also like to see $30 million for a new communication center.

"Certainly, where our facility is now is very close to the beach," Mulligan said. "If we were to look at a category three or category five storm, our communication center may very well be under water."

The Sheriff's Office said it has some backups in place, but a new location would be an even better option. And as it does its best to plan and prepare for these changes, Stalcup hopes some things there stay the same.

"I hope the population rate doesn't continue to grow at the rate it does," he said. "I like the small quaint little fishing village that it's known for, and I'd like it to kind of stay the way it is."

The sheriff offered other options for expanding or building new facilities, such as acquiring the juvenile center owned by the state and using it as a jail, as well as the Sheriff's Office annex.

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