Commission should have included sheriff in building discussions from the start

Highlands County commissioners have invited Sheriff Susan Benton to a meeting concerning moving a chunk of her staff to a building other than where they have been located for some time. That's mighty thoughtful of the commissioners. What would have been even more considerate would have been to include her in the process in the first place.

The issue came up a couple of weeks ago when a county administrator told commissioners that a lease renewal was needed on the Liberty Star Plaza office building where 70 deputies and staff have worked for several years. A big rent increase loomed from the landlord, as well.

Commissioner Ron Handley said he had a brainstorm earlier that day that the sheriff's staff should move into another building, that's not renovated to handle them yet, in the same location where property and evidence is held. They would extend their lease a bit until the new building is ready.

Other commissioners agreed and approved that plan. The problem was, the sheriff wasn't there to support or argue against such a move. Some commissioners even joked about the sheriff not being happy at their decision.

The commission certainly has the right to make such decisions but we believe the sheriff has earned the respect of the people she serves to at least be consulted before a decision is made. She might have insight that otherwise wasn't known to the commission.

Perhaps moving to this other location is a great idea. Perhaps it's not, but the decision should not have been made on the fly without at least an invitation to the sheriff to discuss the matter. That's happening now, but should have been done in the first place.

We'll be interested to hear what Benton has to say on this matter. She's battled long and hard for new facilities and nothing permanent ever materializes.

We hope the meeting goes well and appreciate that Commissioner Jim Brooks met with the sheriff - even if was after the fact.