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Governor picks savings over safety in Nassau County

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Updated: 6/11/2013 8:28 pm

YULEE, Fla.-- It may look like a campsite or an old abandoned jail, and it is, but it's also home to the Nassau County Sheriff's Office.

Action News found staff working at desks in jail cells.

Now Sheriff Bill Leeper says he's doing what he can to protect the community with what he has. He gave Action News an exclusive tour of his crammed complex where he says multitasking has become key.

"This functions as a break room for our dispatchers. It's a filing room for warrants too," said Leeper.

Evidence is processed in old cell blocks where prisoner cots are used as shelves. Detectives are forced to conduct private interviews in rooms with thin temporary walls, and the rest of Leeper's staff is spread across a campus they believe could be leveled in severe weather.

"Should a storm come through like the tornadoes similar to last week those would be destroyed," said Leeper.

Leeper says he's running out of options.

Gov. Rick Scott just vetoed $500,000 to build a new complex.

"Every time I look at every dollar every project has helped create jobs improve our education system keep the price of living low," said Scott.

It's a low blow for Leeper who says he doesn't have the proper resources to protect an entire county.

"Public safety is priority," he said. "Without public safety everything else is secondary. Nobody's going to come here."

The sheriff says he still has one more option; instead of getting funding from the state, he plans on asking the County Commission to approve money for a new complex, but in a tight budget that would be complicated.

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