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Sexual Assault Response Center Funds Restored In City Budget

Kevin Meerschaert

At a budget hearing Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee restored funding for the city's Sexual Assault Response Center (SARC).

Committee members were displeased when it was revealed that while funding for the center had been eliminated, state reimbursements to the city for conducting medical and forensic exams of victims remained in the revenue column.

There was a great deal of confusion during the hearing. City officials told the committee they believed the services provided at SARC could be handled at UF Health Jacksonville.

However, they also admitted initial contact with UF Health had occurred only hours before the hearing.

Frustrated council members said they would not defund SARC without an adequate alternative in place for what they described as an important city function.

They also found it troubling that Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford was not consulted about the proposal to close the center ahead of the budget presentation.

The Jacksonville Sheriff Office budget will be discussed at a hearing on Friday.

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.