First On WSFA 12 News: Alabama sheriffs and coroners scramble after surprise announcement

GREENVILLE, AL (WSFA) - Butler County Sheriff Kenny Harden is not a happy camper.

"I am upset about that," said Harden.

Here's why. Live -and directly from WSFA 12 News Tuesday night- Sheriff Harden learned the Alabama Department of Forensics will stop transporting bodies such as homicide victims. The sheriff wished he had heard about it from D-F-S instead of through his television.

"If I have a homicide next week and they tell me they're no longer transporting bodies then I'm in a spot," said Sheriff Harden.

Regardless of how the sheriff found out, the bottom line is D-F-S is cutting 10% or $1.4 million from its transportation budget.

"I'm not pleased about it but that's just the way it is," said D-F-S Director Michael Sparks.

D-F-S along with other state agencies were ordered by Governor Bob Riley last month to trim 10% from their respective budgets due to the economic slowdown.

The sheriff guesses he'll need $30,000 to buy a van and equipment to transport bodies, no pocket change for a rural county like Butler County but now a necessary expense.

Time is of the essence since D-F-S will stop picking up bodies for autopsies on January 19th. That's why Sheriff Harden is anxious to walk through his $30,000 proposal during a work session with the county commission Thursday night. The commission is expected to vote on it next week.

"We'll have to re-do the budget," said Harden.

Sparks, meantime, told WSFA 12 News he apologizes for the slight, meant no harm but picking up bodies has always been a service, not a mandate.

For sheriffs and coroners throughout the state investigating suspicious deaths just got heavier.

A bit of hope though. Sparks says he'll resume the service immediately if the state puts $400,000 back in his transportation budget.