JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The brand new three-story building sits on the waterfront and you can tell who owns it by the sheriff’s boats. On Thursday, there was one boat parked out front, another out back at JSO’s Marine Unit operations center at Arlington Lion’s Club Park.
And some are asking, what’s the point?
"Please explain to me the purpose of that marine unit and what it's costing us,” said City Councilman and Finance Chair John Crescimbeni.
JSO’s marine unit is used to patrol the 125 miles of navigable waterways here in Jacksonville. They tell us their primary responsibilities include water rescues, enforcement of boater violations, and monitoring manatee zones.
The more than $4 million building was built using federal homeland security grant money secured in 2006 and forfeiture funds.
But now that it’s here, taxpayers are responsible for the upkeep and utility costs.
Crescimbeni is demanding answers after he says he heard the sheriff on the radio say only one person was assigned to the unit.
"That's a pretty amazing structure to support one person in a marine unit,” he said.
So Crescimbeni sent a “request for information” to the undersheriff wanting to know several things about the facility including, how many JSO employees and marine vehicles are assigned there and how much the monthly operational costs will be.
He had yet to hear back Thursday, so Action News sent our own request.
We got some answers. Turns out the facility at the Arlington Lion’s Club Park is not officially open yet. But when we asked how many officers work, or will work, there we were told no one.
Lauri-Ellen Smith, special assistant to Sheriff John Rutherford said, “It’s a vessel dock and a place for officers to plan deployments; etc., but they work on the waterways, not in an office.”
When we asked what the maintenance costs will be for the building we were told to ask the city.
But it appears they’re just as curious as we are.
"What are we forgoing by using those dollars to maintain perhaps an unnecessary building? I mean is that going to cost us two police officers on the street,” Crescimbeni asked.
Crescimbeni hopes his request will be answered before the sheriff’s scheduled budget hearing on August 17.