Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Slow Death Of A County Government

Ruined building in Cairo, Illinois

Alexander County, Illinois is running low on money and manpower:

CAIRO, Ill. - As sheriff in one of the state's poorest counties, David Barkett often has his hands full keeping drug and property crimes in check. But now things have gone from bad to worse to desperate in Alexander County, where 27 percent of residents live in poverty and the general fund has dwindled to $30,000.

Barkett this month laid off three-fourths of his staff, leaving just four deputies to help cover the county that spans more than 250 square miles in far southern Illinois. Just days later, he surrendered five patrol cars to the local bank for nonpayment, leaving his department just one county-owned vehicle.

And by midweek, Barkett's prisoners may be turned away from the regional jail because the county hasn't kept up paying for the upkeep of its inmates there.

Barkett admits his department is hogtied by the shortage of vehicles and deputies, but he remains undaunted:

"I firmly believe that the good will prevail, the good Lord willing," he said. "I'm not a quitter, and I wasn't elected to let these people down. And I have no intention to do that."

You have to wonder how many other county sheriffs are in the same predicament, watching their communities rotting away before their eyes. Without tax-funded governments to back them up, they will probably need to organize local militias to stave off anarchy.

Update (10-9-09)

The state government of Illinois is also broke. Comptroller Dan Hynes says his office is getting 2,600 calls a week from frantic creditors begging to be paid.

1 comment:

  1. No vehicles and no personnel. At least cellphone service remains relatively cheap (where viable). It's time for reorganizing the trained volunteers, as you suggest, dispatching whomever is closest to the action. But it would also call for reducing the paperwork and other time-consuming bureaucratic nonsense attached to community policing.