Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson
Reporter 

School Resource Officer approved by City Council and Board of Education

 


The City Council and the Board of Education approved a motion to let the Kimball Police Department move forward with acquiring a School Resource Officer at the their meetings the nights of May 7 and May 13, respectively.

However, the approval comes with a few conditions. Most notably, the position’s salary must be funded by grant money. Police Chief Darren Huff has already found a potential grant that would cover the position for the first three years.

“This is a 2013 grant that will cover up to 75 percent of the approved entry level salary and fringe benefits of a fully sworn, full time officer for our schools,” Huff said. “Basically, what that translates to is the position would be gifted a $125,000 grant that covers three years. The local municipality or the school or both would cover a 25 percent cash match. Which is a requirement for the maximum federal share,” Chief Huff said.

The initial salary for the position would be $32,614.40. However, that cost goes up when factoring in benefits and things of that nature.

“After all of their benefits and long term disability, group health and all of those, it adds up to $45,851.52. The 25 percent from that would be $11,462.88 in order to guarantee that grant. If we broke it in half it would be $5,731.44. That’s if the School District decided to partner with the city and do a half and half type thing,” Huff said

Though the grant would cover most of the position’s salary for three years, it comes with a bit of a catch.

“It is a three year grant. However, we have to keep the officer for four years in this position. The fourth year would be a complete integration into either the city or school or together 50/50. It’s a four year guarantee. We have to do four years if we’re going to qualify for this grant,” Huff said The officer would go through training in October at a training center in Grand Island, Nebraska for 16 weeks before coming to Kimball. According to Huff, this initial training is covered by the grant.

However, the 20 hours of SRO training the officer would undertake in Colorado, would come as an additional, small cost to the city.

“That would cost $395, because the grant does not allow us to pay for any of the additional training. The grant also does not cover equipment, uniforms or vehicle which the SRO would need on top of that,” Huff said.

According to City Administrator Daniel Ortiz, the city has already partly budgeted for a vehicle for the police department.

“We budget every year about $15,000 for a vehicle. We’re due for one at the end of this fiscal year. The vehicle you see [sitting outside] is not in the greatest condition, and it is due for retirement. Certainly, given the demand the resource officer is going to have, it would be more ideal to have a designated vehicle for that officer,” Ortiz said.

Though the position would appear to come at a great cost, many of the school faculty believe that it will serve as a great benefit to the school including Kimball Jr./Sr. High School Principal Eugene Hanks.

“I think it would be a positive, good thing,” Hanks said.

Mary Lynch Elementary and West Elementary Principal Mike Mitchell also sees how the SRO will be positive for the school district from the elementary standpoint.

“The one thing that I’ve seen with the elementary kids with not just Chief Huff but any police officers that come in the building, the kids feel very comfortable talking to them. I think it’s made a big difference with them being there than what we’ve had before,” Mitchell said.

Mr. Mitchell also pointed out how having an SRO will help with police investigations by opening a line of communication built on trust and comfort.

“Last year, we had to bring some law enforcement in for some questioning things, and if we had someone on staff they feel comfortable with, I think that would help the situation immensely,” Mitchell said.

Both the City Council and the Board of Education unanimously approved Chief Huff to move forward with securing the grant for the SRO position with the deadline for its submission being May 22.

 

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