JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With their messages prominently displayed on bright red tee-shirts, a local group came hoping City Council would hear their pleas to not close the Matrix House, a drug-treatment facility in Jacksonville.
"If this program were to disappear these people would be incarcerated without treatment. Then, they're going to be released back into society and what's that going to do," questioned Felicia Willis, president of the Matrix House alumni organization.
The fate of the Matrix House centered around the Council's approval of a substitute to bill 2012-450, which would give the sheriff $10.5 million from his savings.
Sheriff John Rutherford said that would not only help keep the Matrix House open, but would also prevent him from having to lay off an additional 114 police positions.
But when it came time to hear the bill, heated debate began.
"The fire department saved $6 million, they're not going to get that because we're giving $10.5 million to the sheriff. Libraries saved $1.6 million, they're not going to get that we're giving it to the sheriff," said Councilman John Crescimbeni.
Those in opposition pointed out a current budget hole of $6.5 million that needs to be filled by Friday.
"You've got a $6.5 million red number right now. How you're going to come up with that without cutting everybody else and allowing one person to reap the benefits is just inherently unfair," said Councilman Richard Clark.
"I've heard some of the speakers talk about holes, holes in the budget. I would like to say if we don't fill these streets with cops there will be holes and they'll be bullet holes," said Councilwoman Denise Lee.
So, with the Sheriff and the Matrix House supporters sitting in the audience and police officers lined up in the back, the bill came to a vote. They watched as the tally lit up like Christmas lights with more green than red.
All in all 14 voted yay, 4 voted nay. The nays included Clark, Crescimbeni, Holt, and Boyer.
The Sheriff got his money and the Matrix House is here to stay.
"I'm thankful that the majority of council recognized the value of public safety," said Rutherford.
"This is a victory. I'm happy. I am happy my efforts were not in vain," said Willis.
Even with the $10.5 million, Rutherford says he will still need to cut 74 vacant police positions, 22 corrections positions, and 154 civilian positions