New sheriff makes good impression on BCC with proposed budget

Michelle Cook’s plan would reduce CCSO’s operating budget

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The new sheriff already has already impressed the Board of County Commissioners.

It’s no secret that the BCC and previous sheriff Darryl Daniels ran into their own sets of roadblocks, but the newly-elected Michelle Cook is already receiving praise from all five chairs on the board for her work on a new budget.

“As you know, election season is upon us and we have a new constitutional: a new sheriff,” county manager Howard Wanamaker said. “Sheriff Cook – I’ve probably met with her almost half a dozen times at this point to talk about the sheriff’s budget. There’s quite a bit of difference with regards to the proposed budget.”

Wanamaker told the BCC last week that the Cook’s budget is shaping up to be a decrease of $6.2 million – or $835,000 year over year. He said this was the biggest obstacle for the CCSO.

Cook made her first BCC regular meeting appearance as the new sheriff to discuss what some of the needs in her budget are, which focuses on the jail. She said CCSO has commitment for five deputies using a grant the office received and that the jail still needs to add two registered nurses “to make sure the folks in custody and control are safe.”

“This is surprising but it’s a good surprise,” board chair Gayward Hendry said. “I think you’ve brought the numbers into something the county manager can work with.”

The BCC praised her work so far and expressed excitement in working with her in the future.

“I just want to say how refreshing it is to see us working together in Clay County,” board member Diane Hutchings said. “Sheriff Cook, we know you stepped into a big lift. We appreciate the way you’ve cooperated already to help out.”

In other business, the BCC has voted unanimously to say that it recognizes the need of the county to have a new health facility, emergency supplies warehouse and business incubator.

“The response back from the [state CARES Act] treasury and consultant was this: we need to contact the board and the board needs to vote that this is a necessity on record,” Emergency Management Director John Ward said. “This says that you as an elected board recognize that this is a necessity for your community.”

The CARES Act staff, Ward and others can now move forward in formally finding buildings for each of these three things. These buildings will need to be affordable, justified by documentation so that CARES Act money can be spent on them, and their purchases will have to be approved by the BCC.

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