City to present Baldwin school district with SRO proposal
Baldwin City officials will approach the USD 348 Board of Education later this month with a proposal to place a school resource officer in Baldwin schools.
At Monday’s Baldwin City Council meeting, Councilman Coy Weege told his fellow council members the issue was discussed at the May meeting of the council’s community health and safety committee, which he chairs.
The community has been without an SRO for four years. That program, started with the help of a Homeland Security grant, was ended as a cost-saving measure when the school district’s share of the salary for the position grew from 20 percent to 70 percent as the grant funding ended, USD 348 Superintendent Paul Dorathy said in January.
There was agreement in the committee that any SRO should be an employee of the Baldwin City Police Department but that some of the officer’s salary should be paid by the school district, Weege said.
The city would provide and own the equipment the SRO used, Weege and City Administrator Chris Lowe said. He and Police Chief Greg Neis had identified existing equipment, including a vehicle, that the SRO could use, which would help keep costs down, Lowe said.
In response to Councilman Shane Starkey’s statement that school security would seem to be the school district’s responsibility, Weege noted the SRO would take on other duties during periods when school was not in session and, therefore, the city ought to provide for part of the position’s salary.
Councilwoman Christi Darnell said her experience as a social worker in the De Soto school district suggested the city as a whole would benefit from the SRO. The connections the SRO in De Soto made with students helped to cut vandalism drastically and discourage drug use, she said.
Moreover, the SRO provided students with a positive police role model, Darnell said.
He or Neis will attend the June 17 school board meeting to inform district officials of the city’s interest in reintroducing the SRO, Lowe said. The board would also be assured the practice of the former police chief of pulling the SRO out of the school for patrol duty would not be repeated, Lowe said.
A memo shared with the district would explain the benefits of an SRO and the total cost of the program, Lowe said. Those would include salary and benefits, plus the equipment and vehicle costs the city has already addressed.
The biggest issue remaining is how to share the salary and how much the district could fund, Lowe said.
The district will approve its 2013-14 school year budget this summer while the city’s next budget doesn’t start until Jan. 1, 2014.
Should the district have an interest in the proposal, the city would budget for the position for 2014, assuming the officer would start in August 2014, Lowe said.
In other action, the council approved purchase of a miniature excavator from Heritage Tractor for $32,545. The bid was $115 more than one from Foley Caterpillar of Topeka. For that difference, council members agreed they would rather spend the city’s money locally, noting that one repair trip to Topeka would eat up the savings.
Bill Winegar, city public works director, said the excavator would be used extensively in Oakwood Cemetery and in alleys and other place where space constraints made use of traditional backhoes difficult.
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