MANATEE -- Sheriff Brad Steube, in hopes of finally consolidating criminal evidence in one location in the county, is asking for new space at the sheriff’s office complex on U.S. 301.
Two crews have worked for over a year to get property and evidence stored at several locations throughout the county to a central location at the sheriff’s office in the DeSoto Center, which is currently running out of space.
Steube has proposed the Employee Health Benefits office in the DeSoto Center would be the ideal location.
“I’m going to need most of the building for the property room,” Steube said.
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Steube sent an email to County Administrator Ed Hunzeker asking for additional space.
“This endeavor is critical since Florida State statues require me as sheriff to maintain this property,” Steube said. “In the bank vault, that you are aware of, over 3,600 cases were destroyed by water. In each of those cases, there could have been, and most likely were, numerous items destroyed.”
Steube was referencing moisture in a bank vault that destroyed evidence including items in the Derrick Williams case. Williams was recently let out of prison based partly on the loss of evidence.
Steube calls the process of sorting the items an “arduous task” because each piece has to be researched, observed, repacked, bar coded and then moved.
Hunzeker updated county commissioners and Steube Tuesday on where they stand with the situation.
“We have noted, the Property Management Department is working to move Employee Health Benefits from the DeSoto Center into the old Merrill Lynch building, thereby opening up the space for the expansion of” property and evidence, the memo said. “The prior renovations to DeSoto Center for the property and evidence storage totaled over $500,000.”
The cost of new renovations is unknown, Hunzeker said.
Meanwhile, demolition to the second floor of the Merill Lynch building is almost complete for the employee move, the memo said.
“I told the board we are prepared to serve up a budget amendment soon to move forward,” Hunzeker said Tuesday. “We are going to have some challenges in moving EHB and redoing their space.”
In the memo, Hunzeker said by early next spring, or sooner, Employee Health Benefits be in its new location.
Hunzeker said the DeSoto Center move appears to be a short term solution and he said he is looking into using the old jail location to accommodate future expansion.
“There are still many unknowns with this space and staff is exploring this (moving into the old jail) as a possibility,” he said. “We don’t want to keep moving people around to accommodate property and evidence.”
Steube said he would be against moving property and evidence to the old jail.
“In my opinion, that’s not an option,” he said, because the items had been moved several times when the new judicial center was built. Steube doesn’t feel comfortable with another big move.
“We need everything in one central location that cuts down the numbers of people we need in property and evidence and makes control a lot easier,” Steube said.