Doing A Good Job May Lead To Unemployment
The Hawkins County (TN) Sheriffs
Department may have done too good of a job. Money realized from
drug-related property seizure counts for a large portion of the
department's annual budget... but with those numbers on the
decline, the sheriff is facing some tough decisions.
Sheriff Roger Christian said Monday he may have to eliminate the
department's marijuana eradication helicopter from the 2007-08
fiscal year budgets to avoid ending up in the red, according to the
Tennessee Times News.
The helicopter (type unspecified; the FAA registry lists a
Bell OH-58A registered to Hawkins County Sheriffs Department --
Ed.) costs the Hawkins County Sheriff's
Office about $20,000 annually just to possess before it even gets
off the ground. They pay $9,300 per year in insurance.
This fiscal year, the department was anticipating $75,000 in
revenue from drug fines, court costs and seizures... but that
figure will barely top $41,000. As far as property seizures, the
department has netted only $15,000 so far.
Around 2005, there was more than $300,000 in the HCSO's drug
fund, Christian said. Taking small amounts here and there to help
meet every-rising costs has reduced that amount to almost zero.
When Christian presents his proposed budget at the Hawkins
County Commission's Budget Committee this week, he will be forced
to do it minus the helicopter.
"I started with a budget that mirrors what expenditures we're
currently operating under," Christian said. "Based on current
revenues, at the end of the (2007-08 fiscal) year I was going to
have to borrow $15,000 just to fund the same budget. It all goes
back to our seizures.
"I'd like to think that means we've run the criminal element out
of Hawkins County. I've been here since September, and the numbers
have stayed pretty consistent since then, but I can't really
explain the discrepancy between the other years."
Since taking flight in 1997, the helicopter has been responsible
for an annual seizure average of 10,000 to 12,000 marijuana plants.
In recent years, that number has begun to decline.
It has been widely assumed the helicopter is so efficient at
eliminating outdoor pot growing in Hawkins County the growers
either just stopped or moved their operations indoors.
But, anyone growing or planning to grow marijuana in Hawkins
County shouldn't let their guard down just yet.
The Tennessee National Guard and state highway patrol will
continue patrolling the Hawkins County skies as they already
"It would be great to keep the helicopter because we're the only
department around here who has one," Christian said. "It's just a
huge expense. We might put it in mothballs for a while, and if the
revenue picks back up maybe we can bring it back out.
"Just because I'm considering cutting it from the budget doesn't
mean we're getting rid of it."