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Sheriff Wants You to Pay $300 Million for "Master Plan" - Higher Taxes Inevitable

BROOKSVILLE – Last year, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office introduced a $300 million Master Plan to completely rebuild the Sheriff's Office. Something the Sheriff has never publicly touted, leaving the public virtually in the dark. At the same time, The Hernando Board of County Commissioners approved a 12.2% increase ($8.5 million) to the Sheriff's annual budget, totaling $77.9 million. All of which will inevitably result in higher taxes for Hernando County residents.

During last year's budget meetings, Nienhuis appealed to the board to approve a budget increase because he says the agency needs to fill vacancies within the ranks. Despite Nienhuis making the same plea year after year, the number of deputies has remained largely unchanged since Governor Charlie Crist appointed him in 2010.

Nienhuis enthusiastically touts his leadership in adopting cutting-edge crime-fighting technology but turns a blind eye to calls from citizens urging the implementation of body-worn cameras (BWCs). Despite expert testimony from other law enforcement agencies who say the total cost of a BWC program would not exceed $300K per year – including storage and management – Nienhuis says it's just not in the budget.

For a plethora of reasons, BWCs have proven to be a huge asset to law enforcement agencies around the country. They drastically reduce false claims filed against officers, which prevents millions of taxpayer dollars from being wasted on meritless lawsuits. BWCs also protect the community from incidents of police brutality, evidence planting, civil rights violations, and false arrests. Essentially, BWCs are the "great equalizer" when it comes to interactions between a civilian and someone carrying a gun and a badge.

Nienhuis spent millions (Unconfirmed $12 million) on an encryption program that will prevent the public from monitoring radio traffic with a scanner, but he's asking the taxpayer to rebuild both district offices, construct a new jail, add new parking garages, storage facilities, a shooting range, a skid pad, and much more. All of the above while he chips away at transparency and encourages the agency's Facebook followers to trust them over independent news sources. Some say the pathway is eerily similar to how a communist nation creates state-run media. In an order to protect his reputation, Nienhuis orders his Public Information Officers to block citizens from the agency's Facebook page and delete critical comments – a direct violation of the First Amendment. More on those issues can be found by watching the Behind the Gate Documentary. The encryption program is set to begin early this year, according to HCSO Spokesperson Denise Moloney.

Residents say the problem with introducing a project of this scale is not that a need doesn't exist, it's that the timing couldn't be worse. The economy is still in decline, the cost of living is increasing, the homeless problem is out of control, the border crisis is bringing fentanyl and higher crime to the area, and Nienhuis wants the BOCC to choose between taking a General Obligation Bond (GO) or a 1-cent sales tax increase so that you can pay for his Master Plan.

The Sheriff is expected to appear before the board again tomorrow to discuss developments in the Master Plan and the potential for a sales tax referendum. The meeting begins at 9:00 A.M. and will be held in the John Law Ayers Commission Chambers (Room 160), 20 North Main Street, Brooksville. Citizens are allowed to speak for up to 3 minutes on any topic.


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