Published: May 21, 2010 3:00 AM EDT
Updated: May 21, 2010 3:03 AM EDT

Starting next week, members of the public will be limited in the times they can walk into a Lee sheriff's sub-station and ask for help or file a complaint.   The sub-stations will be open only Monday thru Friday, 7:30am til 5:30 pm.    That will take effect for the buildings in Lehigh Acres and the one on Pine Ridge Road, starting Monday.

"People will have an intercom at the buildings that will connect them with the main dispatch office at headquarters," said Lt. Larry King.   "But very few people come in after hours.   If they have an emergency, they call 911, or they find someone with a cell phone to call 911."

The sub-stations will remain open, and deputies will use them at night and on weekends.   But the front lobby of the buildings will not be staffed with a civilian to talk with members of the public.

"I don't feel good about it," said Gina Ellis of Lehigh.   She told WINK that she moved there 2 years ago and has been surprised by the amount of crime that occurs.  "I feel so much better walking past the sub-station on Homestead, just knowing that it is open if I need it.    When I know that front door is locked, I will not feel as safe and secure."

Fay McKenzie of Lehigh agrees.  "We have so many problems now and we do not feel very secure.  This will make it worse," she said.

Lt. King said citizens must focus on the fact that the number of deputies will remain the same.  Only civilian clerks will be re-assigned to other jobs in the agency.    "We are not cutting back on patrols or investigators.   We just are limiting hours of the front lobby to save about $1.1 to $1.2 million dollars a year.   Public safety will be fine, and anyone who needs help will still be able to get it, just in a different way at night and on weekends."