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Expenses may be lower for 4 new school resource officers

Early signs into the hiring of four new members to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. indicate the new expense will be cheaper than the county and schools first estimated. Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye has advertised his department is hiring to expand law enforcement’s presence in each Harrison County public school this fall.
Earlier this year, the Harrison County Council approved the hiring of four additional staff, which would allow for four school resource officers in the county: two assigned to North Harrison and one each to Lanesville and South Harrison schools. (Corydon Police Dept. currently provides one.)
At the final June Harrison County Council meeting, Seelye told the four members of council present (council members Jennie Capelle, Sam Day and Donnie Hussung were absent due to vacations) that he has gotten a lot of interest from retired police officers who want to work the school halls exclusively during the school year.
‘What that offers us is the ability to pay them a flat rate, a salary, through the course of the year,’ Seelye said during the June 25 meeting. ‘They’d only work during the school year. So, they would be off summer break, fall break, winter break, all holidays and weekends.’
Qualifications for the positions, posted in this newspaper and on social media, say they will be filled from a pool of new recruits or lateral transfers who are academy trained.
Applications can be picked up at the sheriff’s office or online at the department’s website. Applicants have until July 31 to take a written exam.
The sheriff asked the council that the retired officers be paid a flat rate of $45,000 a year.
‘They don’t qualify for retirement, which would be between $6,000 and $7,000 a year per officer, and they wouldn’t qualify for health insurance,’ Seelye said.
Council chairman Gary Davis said he would have to double check to make sure the retired hires would not qualify for health benefits.
The sheriff continued to say the savings could be roughly $30,000 per employee who is hired under these conditions. He added he’s unsure if all four positions can be filled with retired employees but restated there are several retirees interested.
Councilman Gary Byrne
said in the long run the move would save the schools money. The three public school corporations have said they would work a way to make sure each district saves money when one retired employee is hired.
Each candidate would have to pass all the physical standards and requirements that are in place for the sheriff’s staff, and new hires would work on a year-to-year contract that could be renewed each year.
To Davis’ question about how many hours each SRO would work, Seelye said that is still being worked out.
Back in April, the council agreed to spend $140,000, which would provide each Harrison County public school with a resource officer for one semester of the 2018-19 school year. The council paid the entire expense upfront, with the agreement from the school corporations that they would reimburse 70 percent of the cost.
No decision was made by the council, but those present were optimistic about the savings.
‘If we can get this worked out, I think it’d be a no brainer,’ Davis said.
Also during the nearly four-hour meeting, Davis, Byrne, Holli Castetter and Kyle Nix approved sending $130,000 to the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition to buy property to start a women’s half-way home to help incarcerated drug offenders beat the disease of addiction.
The coalition had asked for $200,000 to buy the property, make renovations and get the program up and running.
Davis said he had talked to Jeff Skaggs, the coalition coordinator, about the council only funding the purchase of the home, at a price tag of $120,000.
Skaggs said if all the money was available, the home and program could be up and running within three months.
Byrne brought up concerns of the council having to annually fund the program, something that Skaggs has pledged will not happen.
‘We have made great strides in budgeting,’ Skaggs said, adding the certification process has already begun to get the program’s doors open.
The Harrison County Community Foundation has funded women from the county to other homes in the region, which Skaggs said would be available to stay in the county with the new program.
Byrne said, despite the county’s riverboat fund hurting with other expenses at the moment, he’s willing to help out because he believes this is a good cause.
The councilman’s motion to fund $150,000 for the house and to get the program going failed as all four councilmembers present needed to vote in favor in order for it to pass.
Davis said he would not support the coalition receiving $150,000.
After further discussion, a motion to approve $120,000, which Nix opposed, and another for $135,000 failed (Davis voted against), the four council members agreed to give $130,000.
In other county business, Greg Reas, the county’s EMA director, will have to provide the council with more information before getting a new truck.
Reas wants to replace an aging truck, but the council said the department could get a cheaper one than Reas requested that would meet the EMA’s needs.
Nix found a truck for $20,000 less; it’s fueled with gasoline compared to diesel.
Reas was tasked with getting more quotes from area dealerships, and the request was again tabled until he reports back to the council.
The council also tabled extending the Everbridge notification alert system for another year, something Reas had asked for to the tune of $12,000.
David Meyer, the assistant utility clerk for the Town of Palmyra, reported the town’s wastewater improvement project came in $47,902.79 under budget.
The county council funded $200,000 of a $1.2 million overhaul to the water system in 2016. The project addressed reducing the amount of storm water entering the system as the infrastructure in place was failing and couldn’t handle flooding events.
Meyer requested the town be allowed to spend the leftover money to install more electronic-read water meters.
‘We only have two full-time field workers,’ he said, ‘so, every man hour we can save is a big deal to us.’
The electronic meters will save the town five days of work a month. The meters also provide a more accurate reading.
The leftover funds will cover the cost of 227 meters. The town has 449 left to put in to make the town completely electronic.
Mike Shireman, a member of the Palmyra Town Council, said the town is trying to put in 50 electronic meters a year; thus, using the remaining funds will reduce the time in half.
The motion passed 4-0.
The county council’s next meeting will be Monday at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.