The Batavia City Council tonight agreed to consider a proposed five-year agreement to provide School Resource Officer services to the Batavia City School District -- something Police Chief Shawn Heubusch believes is long overdue.
Heubusch elaborated on a recent memo he sent to Council about the Memorandum of Understanding that he and City School District Superintendent Christopher Dailey developed, with the hope of the board’s approval at its next Business meeting on July 8.
Tonight’s meeting was a combination Conference and Business meeting at City Hall Council Chambers and set the stage for a pair of public hearings for the July 8 meeting – one to support a NYS Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant requested by Genesee Dental and the other to advance $25,000 in funds earmarked for Dwyer Stadium repairs a year earlier than originally appropriated.
On the subject of an SRO for Batavia, Heubusch said he was a bit puzzled as to why the largest district in Genesee County was the only one not to have a designated officer.
“Yes, it does surprise me a little bit. In speaking with Sheriff (William) Sheron over at the county, our actual agreement kind of mirrors what they’re doing with their different school districts so it only makes sense,” he said.
“We’ve had a lot of calls for service at the school, just because there’s a large population in the City when school is in session. It is a little surprising that we haven’t had an SRO until this time, but it is much needed.”
In his memo, Heubusch outlined numerous benefits to having an SRO for Batavia schools, including: student/faculty safety, of course; along with enforcement; relationship building and communication with law enforcement; counseling services; tackling issues involving substance abuse and peer pressure; conflict resolution; and crisis training and response.
The chief said he has applied for grants and tried to fund the position through the budget process, but has been unsuccessful.
“So this year, the superintendent and I sat down and put our heads together and came up with a pretty good Memorandum of Agreement/Understanding, I believe, where the school district and the City share the cost of the school resource officer proportionately,” he said.
Heubusch said the MOU calls for the school district to pay 83 percent of the cost of an entry-level police officer and the City to pay 17 percent. That 83/17 split would remain the same for the life of the contract.
“It stays with that percentage throughout the life of the agreement (five years), so it kind of guarantees some longevity to the program,” he said. “The hopes would be that in five years or four years we renegotiate that contract, come up with another contract that will take us out another five years.”
The agreement starts with one SRO in year one, but increases to two in year two, and three in year three, Heubusch said.
“The idea is to get the three school resource officers for the district – one being assigned to the high school, one being assigned to the middle school and the third one floating between the elementary and parochial school,” he said.
Since the SRO would be a City Police Department officer, he or she could be recalled by the Chief if needed.
“As the agreement calls for, if there is an emergency situation and we need to recall that officer for whatever it may be – our staffing is short or we have a major incident – there is some notification that takes place with the school district, but we’d be able to recall that officer in an emergency situation,” Heubusch said.
“The intent is to make sure that officer is present (in the school) as much as possible – 100 percent of the time, quite honestly, (from September through June) in the school district to do the job that they’re there to do. I don’t foresee us having to recall that officer on a regular occasion.”
City Manager Martin Moore reported to Council that the SRO would have a vehicle, adding to the department’s inventory.
Council unanimously moved the proposal to the July 8th Business meeting.
In other action, Council approved a National Night Out event for 6-8 p.m. Aug. 8 at City Church at St. Anthony’s on Liberty Street. Part of a community-building campaign that promotes police/community partnerships and neighborhood relationships, it is free to the public. Food and refreshments will be provided.
Watch for more coverage of tonight's City Council meeting on Tuesday.