Friday 13th in Athalia worse than any movie

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2005

A horror will occur today, Friday the 13th, in Athalia. But it won't be some hockey-masked movie monster that perpetrates this massacre. Instead, the villains wear far less intimidating garb - business suits.

Ohio's legislators are responsible for this travesty that will rob the eastern Lawrence County community of its police force. The Athalia Police Department will close indefinitely today because of budget cuts to the Local Government Fund monies handed down by the state.

State leaders must take heed and not leave small communities such as this one to sit as helpless prey for criminals seeking easy opportunities.

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Recent cuts in the past few years - and threats from Columbus of more on the way - have forced Athalia leaders to make the harsh decision. Mayor Ron McClintock said they will continue to look for ways to fund the police department, but he was not optimistic about the future.

In fact, more bad news for the community may be on the horizon. One state official even suggested to McClintock that one option would be to dissolve the village altogether.

This means Athalia and other Lawrence County villages that are also facing budget constraints in their police departments will have to rely on the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office for police protection.

That is like asking someone to guard Fort Know with a BB gun. It just cannot be done.

The OSHP focuses its efforts on traffic enforcement along state roads. While this may help somewhat, the OSHP post is in South Point and will be hard-pressed to maintain an adequate presence on the edge of the county.

The sheriff's office is in even worse shape in terms of manpower and resources. With an already overtaxed budget and as few as two officers to cover the 450 square miles of the county at any given time, Athalia might as well be an island in the middle of the ocean.

Now is the time for state legislators to reconsider the proposed LGF cuts that include a 20-percent reduction to counties and cities, a 10-percent cut to townships and villages and a 5-percent cut to libraries.

Local leaders, community members and activists must let our legislators know that these cuts will be making our community's pay. If lawmakers don't want to listen, then voters must hand out cuts of their own - at the polls.