Sequim council OKs partnership with school district for officer
By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The City Council unanimously agreed to a partnership with the Sequim School District that uses a grant to fund an officer dedicated solely to the district.
“We handle hundreds of calls on our school properties each year,” Police Chief Bill Dickinson told the council Monday night.
The city was awarded earlier this month a $125,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund a school resource officer for the next three years.
The council Monday night approved the grant and a partnership to split the remaining costs of the officer with the school district, a cost Dickinson estimated at $19,000.
The School Board is expected to consider the agreement at its meeting this coming Monday. The board meets at 7 p.m. at 503 N. Sequim Ave.
“It’s a great partnership. It’s a great way to build a sense of community,” Sequim School District Superintendent Kelly Shea said Tuesday.
“It also would give us a better sense of security and a better ability to respond to issues that do crop up at our schools.”
Sequim schools had an officer until dwindling budgets of both the city and the school district caused them to cut the position in 2009.
If approved by the School Board, an officer would serve the four schools within the city limits: Helen Haller Elementary, Sequim Middle School, Sequim High School and the Olympic Peninsula Academy.
“We have things happen at the schools, as far as weapons or drugs,” Shea said. “Having a police officer there will make it easier to respond to and maybe even reduce those incidents.”
Dickinson said 2,500 children are on the district’s main campus complex every day.
“Nearly half the size of our entire city comes into our city center every day. And they’re all in one block,” he said.
Both Shea and Dickinson said a school officer also makes students more comfortable with police.
“It’s a great way of connecting kids with law enforcement in a real positive way,” Shea said.
“If they’re around a police officer enough, it doesn’t get to be such an ‘us versus them,’” Dickinson said. “They wave at you with all five fingers.”
After the grant
Councilman Erik Erichsen asked Monday whether the city would be obligated to pay for the officer after the grant expires.
The city and the school district could review the cost of the position at that time, Dickinson said, though he noted that day-shift officers now spend a great deal of time responding to calls from the school.
He estimated the city’s share of the officer’s costs after the grant expired would be less than $43,000, with the district footing a similar share of the bill.
Shea said the four-year grant would allow both entities time to build that expense into their budgets if they decide to keep the officer.
“We’ll do it for as long as the grant’s there. But now we’ve got a few years to budget for the full expense of the officer,” Shea said.
Dickinson said the city would offer the school position to current officers and fill that position with a new patrol officer.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: October 15. 2013 5:22PM