Meth clean up left to police: "Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay"
CHATSWORTH, MURRAY COUNTY (WRCB) - A meth lab explosion sent one man to the hospital, and his family to jail. Now authorities are trying to figure out how to pay for clean up.
"The bathroom toilet was busted, and it blew a piece of sheetrock off the wall," said Brian Hicks, resident at the Murray Lodge.
Hicks says it sounded like a bomb went off Tuesday night.
"The girl that lived out there was stomping out clothes that were on fire," he added.
Chatsworth Police say Brenda Harris, her daughter Sarah Harris, and a two month-old child were sitting outside while Robert Harris was inside cooking meth.
"To think this was his first time trying to do this, and he didn't know what he was doing," said Chatsworth Police Chief Terry Martin. "He's lucky to be alive."
Martin says the ingredients caused an explosion.
Harris was badly burned on his arms and face. He as taken to the Augusta Burn Unit Tuesday night.
The hotel was left highly contaminated.
Eyewitness News was on scene as crews worked to remove the chemicals, a process that comes at a price.
"That's going to be coming out of my budget," said Chief Martin.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency recently cut funding to help small departments, like Chatsworth, pay to clean up Georgia meth labs. That leaves taxpayers to foot the bill instead.
"I had to cut my budget on account of the economy to start with, and you are talking about thousands of dollars fixing to come out of my budget for the clean up of this meth," said Martin, "I don't know what I'm going to do."
Martin says it may mean making cuts elsewhere, but with just 16 employees there isn't a place to trim.
He says this is the first meth lab explosion he has seen in his 24 years on the force, he just hopes it's the last, so his department can stay strong.
Martin says he will appeal, hoping for some federal assistance.
Police are still looking for a fourth suspect in the case. They aren't releasing his name for now, but say he was helping Robert Harris make meth.
The infant was not injured and placed with Child Protective Services.