LYNCHBURG, Ohio -- At an emergency meeting Tuesday night, the rural village of Lynchburg, Ohio tapped a former Highland County sheriff to lead its police force.
The move comes just a few days after newly-elected Mayor Terry Burden disbanded the police department with no notice; Burden told WCPO he had to eliminate the mostly-volunteer force because of budget problems and because the now-former chief, Jay Anderson, no longer wanted to serve.
"I was told there was only $1,500 to $2,000 left in the [police] account," Burden said Tuesday. "Chief Anderson wanted out, and he didn't want to continue his service. So we met Dec. 30, and we arranged to meet again Jan. 1 to take inventory, and that's when I had to lay the deputies off because we was out of money."
BACKGROUND: Rural village disbands police force
That echoes comments from Village Councilman Christopher Green, who said Friday that, although he didn't know about the layoffs in advance, he was aware the police account had little to no money. The 14-member Lynchburg Police Department was operating with an annual budget of roughly $60,000. Two years ago, the city fired its police staff, also citing financial circumstances. A few weeks later, a small force of mostly volunteers stepped in to fill the gap.
Former sheriff Richard Warner, who formally accepted the role of police chief Tuesday, said his first priority will be working with the village council and administration on the strained budget.
"There will be -- with the limited budget -- there will be a lot of volunteers," Warner said. "And if we can work paid staff in there, then we're going to work paid staff in."
Warner said he planned to open up an application process for officers, though he expects fewer of them than the prior chief had.
"We will be looking for seasoned police officers that have a high level of integrity and a lot of public relations," he said.
And, despite limited resources, Warner indicated he'd already spoken with several people he's known from law enforcement during the past 20 years, his lengthy experience a key point for the village's new mayor.
"He's way overqualified, super-nice guy," Burden said. "He's got the experience to work with the people. And I think the majority of people is going to be happy."
Green said he didn't believe the explanation that budget woes were behind Burden's layoffs -- "I don't think it was so much money as it was just kind of bringing in his guys, you know what I mean, someone he knows, someone he probably has worked with before, he knows he has a good rapport with him" -- but he believes Warner is the right choice.
"I grew up here, I graduated here and I am excited to work with family and friends," Warner said.
In the meantime, the Highland County Sheriff's Office has been handling law enforcement in the small community of 1,500 people located about 50 miles northeast of Cincinnati.