Boyle budget woes keep sheriff on the go

November 21, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

Editor's note: As Boyle County magistrates consider deep cuts or a payroll tax increase to keep the county afloat, Sheriff LeeRoy Hardin has implored them to spend a day in his office to see how much officers do with what he believes is a tight budget. The Advocate-Messenger took him up on it.

At 10:25 a.m. Monday, Boyle County Sheriff LeeRoy Hardin had been the only officer on duty since 6 a.m., and his relief wouldn't arrive until 5 p.m.

A call comes in about an accident on Alum Springs Road. "Vehicle versus mailbox," the dispatcher reports, her voice floating from the radio into the office's narrow reception area. Hardin has been taking tax bills.

Deputy Trillie Bottoms, who runs the office, calls Kentucky State Police. She's hoping there is a trooper in the area who can answer the call. The sheriff's office is swamped with a line of taxpayers.


Then there are the other people. Those who want to be fingerprinted to work in the schools, fill out concealed handgun forms, and one woman who wants to know if her landlord can change the locks without evicting her.

Hardin listens to the woman. Despite the noise in the office, he doesn't get distracted. He looks her in the eye, looks at the papers in her hands. She tells him that her son's clothes are inside the house; that she's been trying to move out. It is apparent she's frustrated. Hardin tells her that the landlord can't change the locks unless she's been properly evicted. She seems satisfied.

Hardin doesn't say so then, but he knows that it isn't the last he's heard from her. But there isn't time for that now. The postal carrier has come in with the mail, a thick stack of tax bills. The line of property owners has backed up again.

In comes a court clerk. She has an order to go get an inmate from Franklin County, who is on the docket for 1:30 p.m.

"See, this happens all the time," Hardin said.

If Hardin leaves, there will be no one to watch the county for at least two hours. It is an even longer wait now that the deputies are helping fill in for short-handed police forces in Junction City and Perryville. Without Hardin, the residents will have to rely on state troopers.

That morning, Hardin was still waiting for a trooper to work the accident in Alum Springs.

If someone calls in an emergency, the troopers on duty could be as far away as Lincoln County or Jessamine County, and it would take 30 minutes or more to respond.

Boyle not unique

Boyle is served by the Richmond post, which has to cover 11 counties. KSP public information officer Chris Lanham said Boyle's problem is not unique, that all of the counties are struggling.

Even KSP is short-handed. What would happen if Boyle didn't have 24-hour protection? If KSP had to answer more calls in Boyle?

"It would take troopers out of other counties that are in worse shape," Lanham said. "They would be leaving those counties uncovered that may not even have a deputy."

But, Lanham said, KSP would help out.

"It might take us a while to respond, but we will ... I hope things get better over there. There are a lot of calls in that county ... If something would happen, then we will pick up the slack."

Hardin decides he can't go to Franklin County to pick up the inmate. He goes to call Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Wilcher. When magistrates found out that Wilcher had enough overtime hours accumulated that he could practically take a year's vacation, they told Hardin to make him take three comp days a week.

This day, like many, Hardin has to cave in and call Wilcher to help out. He hadn't even gotten Wilcher on the phone when a deafening alarm went off. It's the panic button for Boyle Circuit Judge Darren Peckler's office. Hardin gives the phone to Bottoms and runs up the stairs. A man has come into the office and demanded to see Peckler. When told he couldn't, he refused to leave. It gave the secretary a scare.

Hardin talks him into coming downstairs into the sheriff's office, so that he can call the man's attorney. It would have been easy to escort him out of the building and gone about the day, but Hardin chose to help.

Horse loose on U.S. 127

After Hardin eases the man's fears, it's back to the line of people paying tax bills. Not 20 minutes goes by before another batch of calls come into the county. This time there is a horse loose on U.S. 127. After a short trip to the bathroom, Hardin is off to see what he can do.

He drives all the way past the Main Street intersection in Junction City without seeing the horse. He calls into dispatch asking about the horse's whereabouts.

Wilcher's voice breaks in over the radio, "It's a four-legged thing with fur all over it."

Hardin breaks into a laugh. A good sense of humor seems to carry him through the day. It's his sustenance.

Hardin soon gives up on the horse and calls into the office to ask if a trooper ever went to work the accident in Alum Springs. No such luck. The trooper is taveling through Lincoln County.

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