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Citrus County Sheriff's Office Col. Elena Vitt removes a black cloth as she unveils a Citrus County Fallen Officers Memorial Tuesday, May 11 in Inverness.

Until this week, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office memorial to law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty was $28,000 short of completion.

In May, the agency unveiled the first of three statues at the sheriff’s office building in Inverness. Three law enforcement officers have died serving Citrus County during its history.

Local businesses and organizations donated about $32,000 toward the bronze statue of a Citrus County deputy kneeling and holding a folded American flag. With the donation of materials and services, the donations are worth $60,000. No public money was used for the project, until now.

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Inverness City Council members agreed this week to donate $10,000 of public money toward the project and in the same stroke, challenged other county governments, namely the Citrus County Commission and Crystal River City Council, to match their donation.

“I think they’ll rise to the occasion,” Inverness Mayor Bob Plaisted said during this week’s Inverness council meeting.  

Councilman Ken Hinkle said the money was a way for the public to show support for local law enforcement and the sacrifices they make here.

Council president David Ryan said the donation was a “small thing they could do to honor fallen officers.”  

Councilman Cabot McBride said that amid many efforts in other cities to defund law enforcement in their communities, a donation from Inverness would say that here law enforcement is appreciated.

“It is outrageous,” McBride said of the defunding movement. “We love cops and appreciate what you guys do.”

Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast said people often stop at the memorial to pay their respects and reflect.

“It is a beautiful memorial,” Prendergast told the council, adding that it was time to finish it. “It’s long overdue.”

Prendergast said that any additional money beyond the $28,000 would be put to good use, namely the landscape upkeep for the memorial.

In addition to government donations, Prendergast said he would still welcome private donations, regardless how small.

Donations can be made at the sheriff’s office in Inverness at 1 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Inverness, FL 34450.

Councilwoman Jacquie Hepfer said that since her father was a former chief of police in Inverness, "the memorial was near and dear to my heart.”

City Manager Eric Williams said the memorial is a destination for the city and downtown.

“I would say it’s an important project for the city,” he said.     

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.