City adds another school resource officer


City officials have approved funding to pay for a third school resource officer as part of an effort to strengthen security at Seymour Community Schools.

Members of the board of public works approved three contracts for those officers Thursday after a request by Police Chief Bill Abbott.

Per the contracts, the school will pay $195,000 for officers during their time spent at schools. Officers typically work at the schools for 10 months, but also use time out of school to receive additional training.

The city will pay the remaining $90,000 for the 10-month period to bring the total to $285,000 for the officers.

That figure includes salary, benefits, equipment and vehicle costs, Abbott said.

The third officer, Chadd Rogers, is already in place and works at Seymour High School.

Abbott said he and former Superintendent Rob Hooker had discussions about the need for an additional resource officer, and Abbott assigned Rogers to the post early this school year.

Contracts also were renewed for Officer Keith Williams — who serves the elementary schools and investigations — and Officer Craig Owens who serves the middle school.

Abbott said he and Hooker saw a need for an additional officer at the schools to provide more protection in an increasingly unpredictable society.

“Given today’s society, I thought it was a good idea to add another,” he said. “We’ve had two for several years now, and the third will help.”

Abbott said the move essentially gives the schools five officers. Former officer Jack Hauer is a part time security officer for the corporation, and the department has a presence when officers teach Drug Abuse Resistance Education aka D.A.R.E. programming.

The officers work as patrol officers for about a month in the summer after the school year, when training is complete and vacation is used up, Abbott said.

Mayor Craig Luedeman — who oversees the board — recommended the members approve the contracts, but said he thinks they should be renegotiated in the future for the schools to pay more.

“I think paying their wage would make it more in line,” he said. “That’s probably never going to happen, but that would make it more in line for the city.”

Luedeman said it is necessary to have school resource officers, but feels the contracts should reflect more of what city has to give up to provide them.

“School safety is a priority,” he said. “It’s good, but at the end of the day we’re taking three officers off the street for the rest of the taxpayers.”

Luedeman also expressed frustration with the school corporation, saying he feels the city has “bent over backwards” for the school in prior interactions, but has not received as much in return.

Luedeman was referring to the school board’s decision in December to reject a property offer as part of the $20 million Burkart Boulevard Bypass project. Hooker made the recommendation to reject $175,105 for one parcel of 10.483 acres and $21,375 for another half acre near the administration building and Seymour-Jackson Elementary School.

The offers were made as part of the second phase of the $20 million bypass project, which will connect Burkhart Boulevard on the city’s east side to Airport Road on the city’s west side. Luedeman has previously said the board’s rejection could stall parts of the project.

School officials cited safety concerns as part of their rejection.

Luedeman said he was not angry with the board for their decision because they likely didn’t know about meetings the city and school administration had to accommodate the school’s concerns in the original proposal.

“I felt like we bent over backwards for them after it was redesigned twice for them,” he said.

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