Plans for a regional law enforcement training facility next to the state’s new body farm are officially dead.
Gov. Rick Scott used his line-item veto power to kill the $4.3 million appropriated for the project by the legislature.
The body farm itself, near the Pasco County Jail, has already broken ground. But the lack of state funding will delay several key components – including a tactical training facility, a shoot house for active shooter drills and a training site for search and rescue dogs.
The Pasco County facility is to be named the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Education and Research, after one of the child victims of the notorious Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, where dozens of unmarked graves were unearthed in recent years.
The legislature formally apologized to the school’s former students this legislative session.
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco took First Coast News on a tour of the site in April, which he said would put Pasco County “on the map” as a destination for law enforcement training. The facility is also slated to house a cold case database, for the state’s 16,000 unsolved homicides and murders.
It’s the brainchild of Jacksonville resident Ryan Backmann, whose father was killed in 2009 - a crime that’s never been solved.
Nocco noted the connection in April. “That’s the big thing for Jacksonville. I know there’s a deep connection to the cold case database.”
Nocco was cautiously optimistic about the funding then, noting that the legislature was supportive. “If we can get the money, we can be up in place very quickly the building and everything. If not, we’re just slow and steady; but it’s going to be successful. One way or another. Whether we have to dredge it out over a couple years and keep pushing, pushing, pushing, or we’re able to have a very immediate impact -- one way or another we’re going to get it done.”
The governor explained his veto last week saying because “it’s a statewide responsibility, it should be under the management of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement”—not Pasco County.
Scott has battled publicly this legislative session with House Speaker Richard Corcoran whose district includes Pasco County.
Nocco issued a statement after news of the veto, saying “while it is not the outcome we had hoped for… we have made a lot of progress already on this important project.”