Acceptance of a $375,000 federal grant by Carson City’s Board of Supervisors to help fund school resource officers came Thursday, but with cautionary comments.
The three-year grant from the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing for three school resource officers, which was sought and secured by the Sheriff’s Office, carried with it a $502,000 match requirement that would be split between the Carson City School District and city government. In the fourth year, if the program continued, there would be no federal dollars.
“There is one goal,” said Sheriff Ken Furlong. “That is to safeguard our schools.” He said subsidiary goals include cutting youth crime and helping students make sound decisions.
The board authorized it without a dissenting vote, but there was plenty of discussion first.
Supervisors Lori Bagwell and Brad Bonkowski warned in the out years after federal grant money disappears, the school district and city government would have to absorb the price tag if the program is to continue. Bagwell quizzed Furlong about the cost of operating patrol cars or other ongoing costs to keep the program working. He said no more patrol cars would be necessary, though he acknowledged mileage costs would be involved.
The questions regarding sheriff’s vehicles came not long after the board had approved spending up to $238,700 for six replacement vehicles for Furlong’s office.
In that earlier item, also approved unanimously, the decision was to buy and outfit for police work five sport utility vehicles and one pickup truck. The board in earlier budget deliberations for this fiscal year had signaled seven sheriff’s office vehicles could be bought, but Furlong said the ones needed are beefy SUVs or pickups rather normal passenger cars. There had been four such passenger cars in the previous seven-vehicle projection.
The board was told after the SUVs and the truck get outfitted for police work, the final cost would range to $55,000 per vehicle.
In the school resource officer grant discussion, Furlong acknowledged a need for replacement vehicles has been heightened after capital spending was virtually non-existent during the recession., He said, however, his office still has sufficient vehicles to include three for the resource officers without seeking new ones. Bagwell’s extensive questioning prompted her at one point to explain the inquiries to the sheriff.
“I’m not trying to be argumentative, Ken; I’m trying to be realistic,” she said.
Bagwell and Bonkowski were pointed in their remarks to school board members on hand for the city’s board meeting. Bagwell wanted it to be clear continuation of the program after the federal grant runs out would require continuation of a 50-50 split between the school district and city government for all aspects over additional years. A memorandum of understanding between the district and city will delineate such matters.
Ron Swirczek, school board president, said it was his understanding the estimated cost for the district would be about $150,000 annually after the grant ran out.
Despite the lengthy and intensive discussion, it was clear the mayor and supervisors were on board.
“I think this is one of the most important things we can do,” said Mayor Robert Crowell. Return-on-investment is important, he said, but so are making sure students are secure and view law enforcement personnel as role models.
“I think this is a wonderful program, and needed,” said Supervisor Karen Abowd.
“I think this program is very, very beneficial,” said Supervisor Jim Shirk.
Bonkowski asked various questions aimed at eliciting how to measure successful outcomes. At one point, Furlong painted a scenario of a youth who felt he was bullied and came to school with a gun. Furlong asked how much was saved because the student didn’t kill someone. That prompted District Attorney Jason Woodbury under questioning to testify a non-capital trial can cost $200,000 to prepare, a capital case upward of $1 million.
Bagwell, meanwhile, said she was just trying to pin down future costs for a beneficial program. Bonkowski agreed. “We don’t want to get stuck funding additional costs down the road,” he said.
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